How do wood decomposition relate to other traits in the tree? Answered by Benjamin G. Jackson and co-workers in the Early View paper “Are functional traits and litter decomposability coordinated across leaves, twigs, and wood? A test using temperate rainforest tree species”. Here’s Benjamin’s short summary and his pedagogic figure showing the results:
Dead wood represents an important pool of carbon and nutrients entering the decomposer subsystem in forested ecosystems. However, our understanding the factors regulating wood decomposition remain poorly characterized. In our study we ask two main questions:
- Do tree species with leaves that decompose rapidly also have wood that decomposes rapidly?
- Do the same functional traits that control leaf litter decomposition control the decomposition of wood?
We addressed these questions by comparing how traits and litter decomposition vary across 27 co-occurring tree species from temperate rain forests in New Zealand. For each tree species, we quantified the functional traits of their green leaves and leaf, twig and wood litter and then decomposed the three litter types under controlled conditions. Below we show how the main findings of our study fit into the broader picture emerging from recent research into plant functional traits and litter decomposition.