Nutrient scarcity strengthens soil fauna control over leaf litter decomposition in tropical rainforests

Type Article
Date 2019-09
Language English
Author(s) Peguero Guille1, 2, 3, Sardans Jordi2, 3, Asensio Dolores2, 3, Fernández-Martínez Marcos1, 2, 3, Gargallo-Garriga Albert2, 3, Grau Oriol2, 3, Llusià Joan2, 3, Margalef Olga2, 3, Márquez Laura2, 3, Ogaya Romà2, 3, Urbina Ifigenia2, 3, Courtois Elodie A.1, 4, Stahl Clément5, Van Langenhove Leandro1, Verryckt Lore T.1, Richter Andreas6, Janssens Ivan A.1, Peñuelas Josep2, 3
Affiliation(s) 1 : Centre of Excellence PLECO (Plants and Ecosystems), Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, 2610 Wilrijk, Belgium
2 : CSIC, Global Ecology Unit CREAF-CSIC-UAB, 08913 Bellaterra, Spain
3 : CREAF, 08913 Cerdanyola del Vallès, Spain
4 : Laboratoire Ecologie, Evolution, Interactions des Systèmes Amazoniens (LEEISA), Université de Guyane, CNRS, IFREMER, 97300 Cayenne, French Guiana
5 : INRA, UMR EcoFoG, CNRS, Cirad, AgroParisTech, Université des Antilles, Université de Guyane, 97310 Kourou, France
6 : Department of Microbiology and Ecosystem Science, University of Vienna, 1090 Vienna, Austria
Source Proceedings Of The Royal Society B-biological Sciences (0962-8452) (The Royal Society), 2019-09 , Vol. 286 , N. 1910 , P. 20191300 (9p.)
DOI 10.1098/rspb.2019.1300
WOS© Times Cited 22
Keyword(s) biogeochemistry, extracellular enzyme activity, litter decomposition, nutrients, soil fauna

Soil fauna is a key control of the decomposition rate of leaf litter, yet its interactions with litter quality and the soil environment remain elusive. We conducted a litter decomposition experiment across different topographic levels within the landscape replicated in two rainforest sites providing natural gradients in soil fertility to test the hypothesis that low nutrient availability in litter and soil increases the strength of fauna control over litter decomposition. We crossed these data with a large dataset of 44 variables characterizing the biotic and abiotic microenvironment of each sampling point and found that microbe-driven carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) losses from leaf litter were 10.1 and 17.9% lower, respectively, in the nutrient-poorest site, but this among-site difference was equalized when meso- and macrofauna had access to the litterbags. Further, on average, soil fauna enhanced the rate of litter decomposition by 22.6%, and this contribution consistently increased as nutrient availability in the microenvironment declined. Our results indicate that nutrient scarcity increases the importance of soil fauna on C and N cycling in tropical rainforests. Further, soil fauna is able to equalize differences in microbial decomposition potential, thus buffering to a remarkable extent nutrient shortages at an ecosystem level.

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Peguero Guille, Sardans Jordi, Asensio Dolores, Fernández-Martínez Marcos, Gargallo-Garriga Albert, Grau Oriol, Llusià Joan, Margalef Olga, Márquez Laura, Ogaya Romà, Urbina Ifigenia, Courtois Elodie A., Stahl Clément, Van Langenhove Leandro, Verryckt Lore T., Richter Andreas, Janssens Ivan A., Peñuelas Josep (2019). Nutrient scarcity strengthens soil fauna control over leaf litter decomposition in tropical rainforests. Proceedings Of The Royal Society B-biological Sciences, 286(1910), 20191300 (9p.). Publisher's official version : , Open Access version :