The failure of nitrogen and lignin control of decomposition in a North American desert

TitleThe failure of nitrogen and lignin control of decomposition in a North American desert
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1985
AuthorsSchaefer D, Steinberger Y, Whitford WG
Date Published1985
Accession NumberJRN00026
Call Number00286
Keywordsarticle, articles, decomposition,lignin, decomposition,litter, decomposition,nitrogen, journal, journals, lignin,decomposition, litter decomposition, model,mass loss, model,Meentemyer, nitrogen,decomposition

We measured mass losses of both buried and surface litter of six litter types: leaves of the perennial evergreen shrub, Larrea tridentata, leaves of the winter deciduous perennials Flourensia cernua, Prosopis glandulosa and Chilopsis linearis ( a desert riparian species), and evergreen monocot, Yucca elata, and a mixture of annual plants. These species differed in lignin content and carbon-nitrogen ratios. There was no correlation between rates of mass loss and percent lignin, carbon-nitrogen ration, or lignin-nitrogen ratio. The leaves of F. cernua and the mixed annuals exhibited the highest rates of mass loss. Surface litter of Y. elata, and the mixed annuals and C. linearis exhibited higher mass loss than buried litter of the same species. The patterns of mass loss occurring as a negative exponential and surface litter exhibiting low rates in winter and spring and high rates in summer. There was no correlation between mass loss in surface bags that were field exposed for 1 month and actual evapotranspiration (AET) but there was a correlation between AET and mass losses in buried litter. A model relating mass loss to AET and initial lignin content underestimated mass losses in all species examined.