Thursday, May 7, 2009

The "home field advantage" in plant litter decomposition

If you collect leaf litter from a Mahogany plantation and put it beaneath Gmelina trees or vice versa, the rate of litter decomposition will not be the same. According to a recent paper by Ayers et al. (2009), leaf litter decomposition is faster beneath the plant species from which the litter had been derived than beneath a different plant species. This is called home-field advantage. The authors observed that home-field advantage is widespread in forest ecosystems and hypothesized that this is due to the specialization of the soil organisms in decomposing litter derived from the plant above it. In other words, soil organisms living beneath the Mahogany trees are specialized in decomposing the leaf litter from this tree species.

Reference: Ayers E et al. (2009). Home-field advantage accelerates leaf litter decomposition in forests. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 41: 606-610.

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