Stem decomposition of temperate tree species is determined by stem traits and fungal community composition during early stem decay

Shanshan Yang* (Corresponding author), Lourens Poorter, Frank J. Sterck, Johannes H. C. Cornelissen, Richardus S. P. van Logtestijn, Eiko E. Kuramae, George A. Kowalchuk, Mariet M. Hefting, Leo Goudzwaard, Chenhui Chang, Ute Sass‐Klaassen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Dead trees are vital structural elements in forests playing key roles in the carbon and nutrient cycle. Stem traits and fungal community composition are both important drivers of stem decay, and thereby affect ecosystem functioning, but their relative importance for stem decomposition over time remains unclear.To address this issue, we used a common garden decomposition experiment in a Dutch larch forest hosting fresh logs from 13 common temperate tree species. In total, 25 fresh wood and bark traits were measured as indicators of wood accessibility for decomposers, nutritional quality and chemical or physical defence mechanisms. After 1 and 4 years of decay, we assessed the richness and composition of wood-inhabiting fungi using amplicon sequencing and determined the proportional wood density loss.Average proportional wood density loss for the first year was 18.5%, with further decomposition occurring at a rate of 4.3% year−1 for the subsequent 3 years across tree species. Proportional wood density loss varied widely across tree species in the first year (8.7–24.8% year−1) and subsequent years (0–11.3% year−1). The variation was directly driven by initial wood traits during the first decay year, then later directly driven by bark traits and fungal community composition. Moreover, bark traits affected the composition of wood-inhabiting fungi and thereby indirectly affected decomposition rates. Specifically, traits promoting resource acquisition of the living tree, such as wide conduits that increase accessibility and high nutrient concentration, increased initial wood decomposition rates. Fungal community composition, but not fungal richness explained differences in wood decomposition after 4 years of exposure in the field, where fungal communities dominated by brown-rot and white-rot Basidiomycetes were linked to higher wood decomposition rate.Synthesis: Understanding what drives deadwood decomposition through time is important to understand the dynamics of carbon stocks. Here, using a tailor-made experimental design in a temperate forest setting, we have shown that stem trait variation is key to understanding the roles of these drivers; initially, wood traits explained decomposition rates while subsequently, bark traits and fungal decomposer composition drove decomposition rates. These findings inform forest management with a view to selecting tree species to promote carbon storage.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Ecology
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2024

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