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Leaf Decomposition in Dense Ombrophilous Forest in Different Altitudes and Climate Conditions

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Luciana Della Coletta
Total Authors: 1
Document type: Doctoral Thesis
Press: Piracicaba.
Institution: Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Centro de Energia Nuclear na Agricultura
Defense date:
Examining board members:
Luiz Antonio Martinelli; Janaína Braga do Carmo; José Leonardo de Moraes Gonçalves; Jorge Marcos de Moraes; Gabriela Bielefeld Nardoto
Advisor: Luiz Antonio Martinelli

Litter decomposition is a fundamental process that affects carbon (C) storage in the soil and nutrients availability for plants and microorganisms, impacting the distribution of species in a given ecosystem. The Dense Ombrophilous Forest, commonly known as Atlantic Forest, is located along the Brazilian coast and characterized by its high diversity and endemism. Among many botanic families existing in this ecosystem, the Fabaceae family has great importance because it is very abundant and well distributed and also plays an important role in the terrestrial nitrogen (N) cycle. The objective of this study was to investigate decomposition rates and changes in inorganic and organic litter composition throughout this process in two forest physiognomies (Lowland vs. Montane) located in different altitudes (100 m vs. 1000 m). Studies realized along an altitudinal gradient in different vegetation formations of Dense Ombrophilous Forest indicate significant differences in N availability in the soil of different altitudes, and contrasting differences in air temperature. These differences can influence leaf decomposition, which interferes in the decomposition process. One of the experiments with litter bags were set at the beginning of the dry season and another at the beginning of the wet season, each one with duration of one year. The species selected for this study belong to the Fabaceae family (Inga lanceifolia and Swartzia simplex var. grandiflora) and were compared to another species of the Monimiaceae family (Molinedia schottiana). The decomposition rates, lignin, cellulose, hemicellulose and nitrogen degradation were faster in legume than non-legume in Lowland forest. On the other hand, there was no difference in decomposition rates between M. schottiana and I. lanceifolia in Montane forest. But, comparing M. schottiana specie, a common non-legume in the two altitudes, this specie decomposed faster in Lowland than Montane forest. In Lowland forest, not only higher temperatures, but also the different chemical characteristics, such as high nitrogen content and low C:N ratio in the legume litter could accelerate the decomposition processes in this forest, in addition, lower polyphenols concentration in M. schottiana in Lowland compared to Montane forest can also favored the high decay rates in Lowland forest. Therefore, the litter chemical characteristics also appear to regulate the decomposition rates (AU)