Plant litter decomposition is a key process in terrestrial carbon cycling, yet the relative importance of various control factors remains ambiguous at a global scale. A full reciprocal litter transplant study with 16 litter species that varied widely in traits and originated from four forest sites covering a large latitudinal gradient (subarctic to tropics) showed a consistent interspecific ranking of decomposition rates. At a global scale, variation in decomposition was driven by a small subset of litter traits (water saturation capacity and concentrations of magnesium and condensed tannins). These consistent findings, that were largely independent of the varying local decomposer communities, suggest that decomposer communities show little specialisation and high metabolic flexibility in processing plant litter, irrespective of litter origin. Our results provide strong support for using trait-based approaches in modelling the global decomposition component of biosphere-atmosphere carbon fluxes. Copyright © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/CNRS159 September 2012 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2012.01826.x Letter Letters © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/CNRS.
|Publication status||Published - 2012|