The influence of litter quality, fungi and invertebrate decomposers on litter decomposition in a Mediterranean-climate ecosystem

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis



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[Truncated] Decomposition is a key ecosystem process that regulates carbon and nutrient cycling, and relies on links between above ground and below ground ecosystem components. The decomposition system is complex and consists of multiple interacting trophic groups. It has long been recognized that litter decomposition is controlled by environmental conditions, litter quality, and by these trophic groups (hereafter ‘decomposers’). More recently, understanding of litter decomposition has increased with the study of modified ecosystems where one or more of these three factors is altered and compared with unmodified ecosystems. In particular, invasion by exotic plants has highlighted the influence of litter quality and environmental conditions on decomposition. Furthermore, with increasing focus on the restoration of ecosystem functions to modified ecosystems it has become more critical to understand the controls on decomposition to know how to restore this function. Despite some advances in this research area, our understanding of the influence of environmental conditions, litter quality, decomposers and invasive plant species on decomposition is constantly evolving. Understanding is particularly limited for Mediterranean-climate ecosystems. This PhD study aims to further our understanding of these factors by addressing the following overarching questions in the context of modified Mediterranean-climate ecosystems:
1. How do changes in the quality, quantity, and timing of litter inputs associated with exotic plant invasions affect decomposition?
2. Is the successional progression of litter invertebrates affected by exotic plant invasions?
3. Do fungi prime sclerophyllous litter for decomposers?
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
StateUnpublished - Aug 2015

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