Predicting leaf litter decomposability: an exploratory assessment of leaf traits, litter traits and spectral properties in six Mediterranean herbaceous species
PÉREZ-HARGUINDEGUY NATALIA; CORTEZ, JACQUES; GARNIER, ERIC; GILLON, DOMINIQUE; POCA MARÍA
Asociación Argentina de Ecología
Año: 2015 vol. 25 p. 54 - 64
Several studies attempted to find quick and easy methods to assess litter decomposability. We tested three frequently used methods on 6 Mediterranean herbaceous species from different plant families and life forms: (1) ?green leaves traits?: traits of living leaves related to the strategies of living plants; (2) ?litter traits?: litter respiration during in vitro incubation and initial litter properties; and (3) ?leaf and litter spectral properties?: the spectral characteristics (NIR) of green leaves and litter. We analyzed the relationship between these methods and their consistency to assess litter decomposability in the field. Green leaves spectral properties were the most accurate to predict field decomposability, followed by leaf dry matter content (LDMC) and initial content of non-labile compounds. In vitro decomposability marginally correlated with field decomposability. The selection among these predictors may then depend on the instruments available. LDMC is the easiest and least expensive, and is also a constant trait within species. Alternatively, if available, NIR spectra of green leaves and initial litter represent the quickest method for estimating decomposability and litter quality at the same time. Our findings confirm previous evidence that for species from semi-arid systems structural traits like LDMC and non-labile compounds content are important properties controlling species litter decomposability. The validity of our conclusions when a wider range of species is included remains to be tested.