Plant traits relate to whole-community litter quality and decomposition following land use change
Article first published online: 9 AUG 2007
Volume 21, Issue 6, pages 1016–1026, December 2007
How to Cite
QUESTED, H., ERIKSSON, O., FORTUNEL, C. and GARNIER, E. (2007), Plant traits relate to whole-community litter quality and decomposition following land use change. Functional Ecology, 21: 1016–1026. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2007.01324.x
- Issue published online: 9 AUG 2007
- Article first published online: 9 AUG 2007
- Received 3 April 2007; accepted 26 June 2007; Handling Editor: Gareth Phoenix
- specific leaf area;
- leaf dry matter content;
- ecosystem process
- 1Given the speed and extent of changes in vegetation as a result of human activity, there is a need to investigate ways in which individual species’ impacts on ecosystem processes can be generalized and scaled-up to the community level.
- 2We focus on linking community functional parameters (mean of the traits of the plants in the community, weighted using four different methods) with litter chemistry and decomposition, in a chronosequence of currently managed and abandoned semi-natural grasslands in southern Sweden.
- 3Changes in plant community composition with age since abandonment were reflected in community functional parameters: as expected, aggregated specific leaf area (SLA) declined, and aggregated leaf dry matter content (LDMC) and leaf carbon : nitrogen ratio (C : N) increased with plot age.
- 4Several litter chemistry indices were closely linked with plant traits at the community level; in particular, community aggregated LDMC was correlated with the lignin and fibre content of the community litter.
- 5Aggregated LDMC stood out as the trait most closely linked to community litter decomposition. This relationship was consistent across all three incubation periods (by which time up to c. 70% mass loss had occurred) and as strong as that between the best single chemical index of litter quality (lignin : N ratio) and litter mass loss.
- 6Mass loss of whole community litter, incubated in its plot of origin, was related to mass loss of the same litter incubated under standard conditions, but not to decomposition of a standard substrate, indicating dominant substrate quality control over decomposition.
- 7This study demonstrates the potential of the traits of living plants as a tool to link changes in species composition with ecosystem processes at the community level.