Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub


    Fungi are important for maintaining fast rates of decomposition in low quality tropical leaf litter via immobilization and translocation of limiting nutrients from sources to sinks and conserving nutrients after disturbance. Tropical trees often have low nutrient to carbon ratios. Disturbances such as hurricanes and logging transfer a large mass of green leaves with high nutrient concentrations to the forest floor, but the associated opening of the canopy dries the litter, inhibiting basidiomycete fungi that play critical roles in lignin degradation and nutrient conservation. We conducted a replicated block factorial experiment designed to disentangle the individual and interactive effects of canopy opening and green debris deposition on phosphorus (P) content, mass loss and fungal connectivity in decomposing leaf cohorts in subtropical wet forest in the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico. Though green leaves had higher P concentrations they did not decompose significantly faster than senesced leaves. Mass loss differed among treatments after 14, 40.5 and 53 weeks decomposition. Mass loss at 7 weeks was predicted by P concentration at 7 weeks; mass loss in senesced leaves at 14 weeks was predicted by abundance of fungal connections between the senesced litter cohort and forest floor at 7 weeks. Fungal connectivity and P accumulation at 7 weeks and mass loss of senesced leaves beginning at 14 weeks were significantly different from and lower in plots with trimmed canopy and no debris than in the untrimmed plots with debris. Litter moisture was previously found to be significantly lower under open than closed canopy, and we found that moisture was a significant predictor of fungal connectivity in both senesced and green leaves. Deposition of green leaves ameliorated the inhibitory effect of canopy opening on fungal connectivity between litter cohorts by retaining moisture; consequently fungal connectivity and mass loss in senescent leaves did not differ between the Trim + Debris and the control treatments. Phosphorus content of senesced leaves increased significantly by 7 weeks in both trimmed and untrimmed plots with added green debris and in the control plots. Based on mass balance calculations, both the underlying forest floor and overlying green leaves likely contributed P to the decomposing senesced leaf cohort. Fungal translocation of P through hyphal connections between litter cohorts explains some of the changes in P content. Though fungi were important in conserving P, most of the P that was likely leached from green leaves was not retained in the litter layer.

    Publication Notes

    • Check the Northern Research Station web site to request a printed copy of this publication.
    • Our on-line publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat.
    • During the capture process some typographical errors may occur.
    • Please contact Sharon Hobrla, if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Lodge, D. Jean; Cantrell, Sharon A.; Gonzalez, Grizelle. 2014. Effects of canopy opening and debris deposition on fungal connectivity, phosphorus movement between litter cohorts and mass loss. Forest Ecology and Management. 332: 11-21.


    Google Scholar


    Decomposition, Phosphorus translocation, Leaching, White rot decomposer fungi, Hurricane disturbance debris, Canopy opening

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page