Characteristics of root decomposition based on in situ experiments in a tropical rainforest in Sarawak, Malaysia: impacts of root diameter and soil biota

  • Mizue OhashiEmail author
  • Naoki Makita
  • Ayumi Katayama
  • Tomonori Kume
  • Kazuho Matsumoto
  • Tomo’omi Kumagai
  • Izuki Endo
  • Lip Khoon Kho
Regular Article



Tropical forests contribute significantly to the stability of global carbon (C) balance; however, little is known about root litter decomposition in tropical rainforests. In this study, we aimed to (1) characterise the effect of soil depth, root diameter and soil organisms on root litter decomposition and (2) estimate the contribution of root decomposition to soil carbon dioxide (CO2) efflux in a tropical rainforest in Malaysian Borneo.


We incubated soil chambers with fine and coarse root litterbags at varying soil depths. Soil chambers were covered with nets of different mesh sizes, and CO2 efflux was monitored from the top of each soil chamber during the incubation.


Our results showed that coarse roots decomposed faster than fine roots. There was no impact of soil depth, but soil animals and fungi had a significant impact on coarse root decomposition from 398 days after the start of the experiment. Soil CO2 efflux increased linearly with C loss from root decomposition, indicating that 40% of the CO2 efflux originates from root litter.


The variation in root decomposition rates suggests the possible role of root litter in soil C storage and emission in a tropical rainforest.


Coarse root Fine root Soil fauna Soil fungi Soil respiration 



We are grateful to the Forest Department, Sarawak, for their kind support during the study. We acknowledge Dr. M. Katsuyama for his helpful supports in chemical experiment and Dr. Y. Hirano for his helpful comments on a draft of this manuscript.

Funding information

This study was financed in part by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Japan (Nos. 25304027, 16H02762).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11104_2018_3929_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (56 kb)
ESM 1 (XLSX 55 kb)
11104_2018_3929_MOESM2_ESM.pptx (95 kb)
ESM 2 (PPTX 95 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Human Science and EnvironmentUniversity of HyogoHimejiJapan
  2. 2.Faculty of ScienceShinshu UniversityMatsumotoJapan
  3. 3.Kasuya Research ForestKyushu UniversitySasaguriJapan
  4. 4.Faculty of AgricultureUniversity of the RyukyusOkinawaJapan
  5. 5.Graduate School of Agricultural and Life SciencesThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  6. 6.Institute for Space-Earth Environmental ResearchNagoya UniversityNagoyaJapan
  7. 7.Tropical Peat Research Institute, Biological Research Division, Malaysian Palm Oil BoardKajangMalaysia

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