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Water, rather than temperature, dominantly impacts how soil fauna affect dissolved carbon and nitrogen release from fresh litter during early litter decomposition
Journal Contribution - Journal Article
Longstanding observations suggest that dissolved materials are lost from fresh litter through leaching, but the role of soil fauna in controlling this process has been poorly documented. In this study, a litterbag experiment employing litterbags with different mesh sizes (3 mm to permit soil fauna access and 0.04 mm to exclude fauna access) was conducted in three habitats (arid valley, ecotone and subalpine forest) with changes in climate and vegetation types to evaluate the effects of soil fauna on the concentrations of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and total dissolved nitrogen (TDN) during the first year of decomposition. The results showed that the individual density and community abundance of soil fauna greatly varied among these habitats, but Prostigmata, Isotomidae and Oribatida were the dominant soil invertebrates. At the end of the experiment, the mass remaining of foliar litter ranged from 58% for shrub litter to 77% for birch litter, and the DOC and TDN concentrations decreased to 54%-85% and increased to 34%-269%, respectively, when soil fauna were not present. The effects of soil fauna on the concentrations of both DOC and TDN in foliar litter were greater in the subalpine forest (wetter but colder) during the winter and in the arid valley (warmer but drier) during the growing season, and this effect was positively correlated with water content. Moreover, the effects of fauna on DOC and TDN concentrations were greater for high-quality litter and were related to the C/N ratio. These results suggest that water, rather than temperature, dominates how fauna affect the release of dissolved substances from fresh litter.
Number of pages: 1