Mixed leaf litter effects on decomposition rates and soil microarthropod communities in an oak–pine stand in Japan



Rates of decomposition, and soil faunal abundance and diversity associated with single-species and mixed-species litters were studied in a litter bag experiment in an oak–pine forest. We used two canopy species of leaf litter, pine and oak, and one shrub species, Sasa, and compared decomposition rates, and soil microarthropod abundance and community structure of oribatid mites in the litter bags. Mass loss of single species decreased in the order: oak > pine > Sasa. While the total mass loss rates of mixed litter were intermediate between those of the constituent species, enhancement of mass loss from the three-species mixture and from mixed slow-decomposing litters (pine and Sasa) was observed. Faunal abundance in litter bags was higher in mixed-species litter than in those with single-species litter, and species richness of oribatid mites was also higher in the three-species mixed litter. Faunal abundance in single-species litter bags was not correlated with mass loss, although enhancement of mass loss in mixed litter bags corresponded with higher microarthropod abundance. Habitat heterogeneity in mixed litter bags seemed to be responsible for the more abundant soil microarthropod community.