Litter and soil biodiversity jointly drive ecosystem functions

Shengen Liu, César Plaza, Raúl Ochoa‐Hueso, Chanda Trivedi, Juntao Wang, Pankaj Trivedi, Guiyao Zhou* (Corresponding author), Juan Piñeiro, Catarina S. C. Martins, Brajesh K. Singh, Manuel Delgado‐Baquerizo* (Corresponding author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The decomposition of litter and the supply of nutrients into and from the soil are two fundamental processes through which the above- and belowground world interact. Microbial biodiversity, and especially that of decomposers, plays a key role in these processes by helping litter decomposition. Yet the relative contribution of litter diversity and soil biodiversity in supporting multiple ecosystem services remains virtually unknown. Here we conducted a mesocosm experiment where leaf litter and soil biodiversity were manipulated to investigate their influence on plant productivity, litter decomposition, soil respiration, and enzymatic activity in the littersphere. We showed that both leaf litter diversity and soil microbial diversity (richness and community composition) independently contributed to explain multiple ecosystem functions. Fungal saprobes community composition was especially important for supporting ecosystem multifunctionality (EMF), plant production, litter decomposition, and activity of soil phosphatase when compared with bacteria or other fungal functional groups and litter species richness. Moreover, leaf litter diversity and soil microbial diversity exerted previously undescribed and significantly interactive effects on EMF and multiple individual ecosystem functions, such as litter decomposition and plant production. Together, our work provides experimental evidence supporting the independent and interactive roles of litter and belowground soil biodiversity to maintain ecosystem functions and multiple services.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2023


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