The cover uncovered: Bark control over wood decomposition

Gbadamassi G.O. Dossa*, Douglas Schaefer, Jiao Lin Zhang, Jian Ping Tao, Kun Fang Cao, Richard T. Corlett, Anthony B. Cunningham, Jian Chu Xu, Johannes H.C. Cornelissen, Rhett D. Harrison

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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    Woody debris (WD) represents a globally significant carbon stock and its decomposition returns nutrients to the soil while providing habitat to microbes, plants and animals. Understanding what drives WD decomposition is therefore important. WD decomposition rates differ greatly among species. However, the role of bark in the process remains poorly known. We ask how, and how much, interspecific variation in bark functional traits related to growth and protection have afterlife effects on the decomposition of wood, partly mediated by animals. We examine the roles of bark cover and bark traits throughout the wood decomposition process. Synthesis. We find that: (1) bark effects on WD decomposition are species- and wood size-specific, (2) bark can enhance coarser WD decomposition but slows twig decomposition in some species, and (3) bark acts as an environmental filter to faunal assemblages in the early stage of wood decomposition. We highlight the need to account for bark effects on WD decomposition and offer an important complementary contribution to including woody species identity effects in biogeochemical and climate-change models via species bark traits.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2147-2160
    Number of pages14
    JournalJournal of Ecology
    Issue number6
    Early online date24 Mar 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


    • Arthropod
    • Bark traits
    • Carbon cycling
    • Coarse woody debris
    • Decomposition
    • Ecosystem function
    • Fungi
    • Species identity effect


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