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    Tussocks of graminoids can induce spatial heterogeneity in soil properties in dry areas with discontinuous vegetation cover, but little is known about the situation in areas with continuous vegetation and no study has tested whether tussocks can induce spatial heterogeneity in litter decomposition. In a subalpine grassland in the Central Alps where vegetation cover is continuous, we measured soil properties [concentration of N, C, organic matter (OM) and pH] and monitored litter decomposition traits (dry mass loss, loss of C, N, P and K) inside and outside tussocks of Carex sempervirens. Soil C, N, OM concentrations or pH inside tussocks did not differ significantly from those outside tussocks. After 1 year of decomposition, litter dry mass loss, C and K loss were significantly smaller inside than outside tussocks. The slower litter decomposition inside tussocks was likely caused by the elevated tussock base, which made environmental conditions inside tussocks much dryer than those outside in early spring when snow melts. Our results suggest that in areas with continuous vegetation cover tussocks induce spatial heterogeneity in litter decomposition but not in soil properties.

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    Yu, Fei-Hai; Schutz, Martin; Page-Dumroese, Deborah S.; Krusi, Bertil O.; Schneller, Jakob; Wildi, Otto; Risch, Anita C. 2011. Carex sempervirens tussocks induce spatial heterogeneity in litter decomposition, but not in soil properties, in a subalpine grassland in the Central Alps. Flora. 206: 373-379.


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    carbon, nitrogen, swiss National Park, small-scale heterogeneity, tussock size

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