Quantity of Standing Litter: A Driving Factor of Root Dynamics
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Current understanding of carbon cycling in terrestrial ecosystem views “quantity” of litter input as a parameter determining the size of soil C pools and soil respired CO2: quantity of litter input is not considered a driving factor affecting the patterns of terrestrial ecosystem processes. Emma J. Sayer and collaborators demonstrated that this may not be the case! With a neat and elegant, for its simplicity, manipulation experiment, Sayer et al. (this issue) showed how increasing input of leaf litter affects the patterns of root distribution along the soil profile, in a relatively nutrient rich tropical soil. In their study, roots responded rapidly to changes in fresh leaf litter input and appeared to closely follow the patterns of litter decomposition. Until this study, root exploitation of standing litter was seen solely as an adaptation to nutrient shortage in the mineral soil. Feedback processes between leaf litterfall, decomposition and root dynamics are envisaged. With global climate change likely to alter plant productivity and litterfall, similar feedbacks, if confirmed, will need to be included in terrestrial ecosystem C modelling.
Keywordslitterfall root growth tropical soils
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