Effects of drought-induced forest die-off on litter decomposition

Josep Barba, Francisco Lloret, Jorge Curiel Yuste

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


© 2015, Springer International Publishing Switzerland. Aims: Drought-induced forest die-off and subsequent species replacement may modify environmental conditions and eventually affect litter decomposition. We aimed to disentangle the effects of tree species and die-off state on litter decomposition in a mixed forest where Pinus sylvestris populations experiencing severe drought-induced die-off are being replaced by Quercus ilex. Methods: Litter bags with leaves and fine roots from both species were placed under canopies representing three habitats of the die-off and replacement process (healthy and dead P. sylvestris and healthy Q. ilex). Mass was assessed over 3 years. Results: Species-specific chemistry of litter (C:N ratio) had a direct effect on mass loss, but also indirect effects, attributed to the decomposer microbial community associated with a given habitat-species. In their respective original habitats, oak leaves decomposed 44 % faster than pine needles, whereas oak roots decomposed 46 % slower than pine roots. Conclusions: Forest die-off and species replacement affected litter decomposition. This effect can have great implications in forest functioning, particularly if drought-induced die-off worsens in the next decades, according with the trend observed in the studied system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-101
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016


  • Carbon cycle
  • Forest die-off
  • Home field advantage
  • Litter decomposition
  • Mediterranean forest


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