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Decomposition dynamics of leaf litter

Research Achievements

Decomposition dynamics of leaf litter

Three IGERT trainees (Mary Harner, Chelsea Crenshaw, and Jennifer Follstad Shah) joined with a visiting international scientist (Manuela Abelho from Portugal) and two colleagues to design an experiment on the decomposition dynamics of leaf litter from non-native nitrogen-fixing Russian olive trees when compared to native cottonwoods. The leaves of these trees were placed in a river, on the surface soils of the riparian zone, and buried within the riparian soils at seven locations. The decomposition of the native and non-native leaf species was similar in the river, but the decomposition of the nitrogen-rich Russian olive was higher in both the surface and subsurface soil environments. Russian olive is a significant source of nitrogen and a large portion of this nitrogen is immobilized in the decomposing cottonwood litter. This interaction in nutrient cycling between native and non-native species is highlighted in article in press in Ecological Applications (Harner et al. 2009).