Tropical tree species composition affects the oxidation of dissolved organic matter from litter

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62 Scopus citations


Plant species effects on soil nutrient availability are relatively well documented, but the effects of species differences in litter chemistry on soil carbon cycling are less well understood, especially in the species-rich tropics. In many wet tropical forest ecosystems, leaching of dissolved organic matter (DOM) from the litter layer accounts for a significant proportion of litter mass loss during decomposition. Here we investigated how tree species differences in soluble dissolved organic C (DOC) and nutrients affected soil CO2 fluxes in laboratory incubations. We leached DOM from freshly fallen litter of six canopy tree species collected from a tropical rain forest in Costa Rica and measured C-mineralization. We found significant differences in litter solubility and nutrient availability. Following DOM additions to soil, rates of heterotrophic respiration varied by as much as an order of magnitude between species, and overall differences in total soil CO2 efflux varied by more than four-fold. Variation in the carbon: phosphorus ratio accounted for 51% of the variation in total CO2 flux between species. These results suggest that tropical tree species composition may influence soil C storage and mineralization via inter-specific variation in plant litter chemistry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-138
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Carbon
  • Decomposition
  • Dissolved organic matter
  • Nutrient limitation
  • Soil respiration
  • Species composition


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