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Data from: Leaf litter decomposition in tropical freshwater swamp forests is slower in swamp than non-swamp conditions

Citation

Lam, Weng Ngai et al. (2020), Data from: Leaf litter decomposition in tropical freshwater swamp forests is slower in swamp than non-swamp conditions, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.hhmgqnkfr

Abstract

Decomposition is a key ecosystem function, and the rate of decomposition in forests affects their carbon storage potentials. Processes and factors determining leaf litter decomposition rates in dry-land and temperate forests are well understood, but these are generally poorly studied in tropical wetland forests, especially freshwater swamp forests (FSF). The home-field advantage (HFA) hypothesis predicts that soil microbes specialize in decomposing leaf litter produced by the tree species in their immediate vicinity. However, empirical support for the HFA is equivocal, and the HFA has never been tested in the highly heterogeneous and biodiverse ecosystems of tropical FSFs. We collected leaf litter from swamp and non-swamp tree species in a tropical FSF in Singapore and monitored the decomposition rates of these in swamp and non-swamp plots for a period of eight months. Leaf litter decomposed 3.7 times more slowly in swamp plots. Leaf litter from swamp tree species were significantly poorer in quality (higher C:N ratio) than those of non-swamp FSF tree species, but this had only a weak effect on decomposition rates. There was also only weak evidence for the HFA and only in non-swamp conditions. Our results show that while the leaf litter of tropical FSF swamp and non-swamp tree species differ significantly in chemical traits, litter decomposition rate is ultimately determined by local abiotic conditions, such as hydrology. Additionally, the high FSF tree diversity may prevent decomposer communities from specializing on any group of leaf litter types and thus limit the extent of HFA observed in such heterogeneous forests.

Funding

National Parks Board - Singapore