Litter type, but not plant cover, regulates initial litter decomposition and fungal community structure in a recolonising cutover peatland

Clare J Trinder, David Johnson, Rebekka R E Artz

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30 Citations (Scopus)


Cutover peatlands are often rapidly colonised by pioneer plant species, which have the potential to affect key ecosystem processes such as carbon (C) turnover. The aim of this study was to investigate how plant cover and litter type affect fungal community structure and litter decomposition in a cutover peatland. Intact cores containing Eriophorum vaginatum, Eriophorum angustifolium, Calluna vulgaris and bare soil were removed and a mesh bag with litter from only one of each of these species or fragments of the moss Sphagnum auriculatum was added to each core in a factorial design. The presence or absence of live plants, regardless of the species, had no effect on mass loss, C, nitrogen (N) or phosphorus (P) concentrations of the litter following 12 months of incubation. However, there was a very strong effect of litter type on mass loss and concentrations of C, N and P between most combinations of litter. Similarly, plant species did not affect fungal community structure but litter type had a strong effect, with significant differences between most pairs of litter types. The data suggest that labile C inputs via rhizodeposition from a range of plant functional types that have colonised cutover bogs for 10–15 years have little direct effect on nutrient turnover from plant litter and in shaping litter fungal community structure. In contrast, the chemistry of the litter they produce has much stronger and varied effects on decomposition and fungal community composition. Thus it appears that there is distinct niche differentiation between the fungal communities involved in turnover of litter versus rhizodeposits in the early phases of plant succession on regenerating cutover peatlands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-655
Number of pages5
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number3
Early online date27 Dec 2008
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009


  • litter decomposition
  • peatlands
  • fungal community structure
  • priming
  • microbial niche
  • Calluna Vulgaris
  • Sphagnum auriculatum
  • Eriophorum vaginatum
  • Eriophorum angustifolium


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