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Appears in Collections:Biological and Environmental Sciences Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Pulse frequency and soil-litter mixing alter the control of cumulative precipitation over litter decomposition
Author(s): Joly, Francois-Xavier
Kurupas, Kelsey L
Throop, Heather L
Keywords: arid ecosystem
carbon cycle
Chihuahuan Desert
global change
litter moisture
precipitation regime
water pulses
Issue Date: Sep-2017
Citation: Joly F, Kurupas KL & Throop HL (2017) Pulse frequency and soil-litter mixing alter the control of cumulative precipitation over litter decomposition, Ecology, 98 (9), pp. 2255-2260.
Abstract: Macroclimate has traditionally been considered the predominant driver of litter decomposition. However, in drylands, cumulative monthly or annual precipitation typically fails to predict decomposition. In these systems, the windows of opportunity for decomposer activity may rather depend on the precipitation frequency and local factors affecting litter desiccation, such as soil-litter mixing. We used a full-factorial microcosm experiment to disentangle the relative importance of cumulative precipitation, pulse frequency, and soil-litter mixing on litter decomposition. Decomposition, measured as litter carbon loss, saturated with increasing cumulative precipitation when pulses were large and infrequent, suggesting that litter moisture no longer increased and/or microbial activity was no longer limited by water availability above a certain pulse size. More frequent precipitation pulses led to increased decomposition at high levels of cumulative precipitation. Soil-litter mixing consistently increased decomposition, with greatest relative increase (+194%) under the driest conditions. Collectively, our results highlight the need to consider precipitation at finer temporal scale and incorporate soil-litter mixing as key driver of decomposition in drylands.
DOI Link:
Rights: Copyright by the Ecological Society of America. Publisher policy allows this work to be made available in this repository. Published in Ecology, Volume 98, Issue 9, September 2017, Pages 2255–2260 by Wiley-Blackwell. The original publication is available at:

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