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Keywords:

  • ecosystem development;
  • microbial food web;
  • litter decomposition;
  • pioneer plant;
  • colonizer plant;
  • microbial biomass

Abstract

Initial ecosystems are characterized by a low availability of nutrients and a low soil organic matter content. Interactions of plants and microorganisms in such environments, particularly in relation to litter decomposition, are very important for further ecosystem development. In a litter decomposition study using an initial substrate from a former mining area, we applied the litter of two contrasting pioneer plant species (legume vs. pasture plants), Lotus corniculatus and Calamagrostis epigejos, which are commonly observed in the study area. Litter decomposition was investigated and carbon (C) translocation from litter into soil microorganisms was described by following 13C from labelled plant litter materials into the fraction of phospholipid fatty acids. Labile C compounds of both plant litter types were easily degraded during the first 4 weeks of litter decomposition. In contrast to climax ecosystems, where the importance of fungi for litter degradation has been shown in many studies, in our experiment, data clearly indicate an outcompetition of fungi by Gram-positive bacteria as soon as available nitrogen is limited in the detritusphere.