|Title||Land cover change in eastern Kansas: litter dynamics of closed-canopy eastern redcedar forests in tallgrass prairie|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2001|
|Authors||Norris, MD, Blair, JM, Johnson, LC|
|Journal||Canadian Journal of Botany|
In the Great Plains region, eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana L.) abundance has increased dramatically in areas historically occupied by tallgrass prairie. This shift in dominant vegetation is likely to be accompanied by changes in ecosystem structure and function, including quantity, quality, and location (above- vs. below-ground) of litter inputs and subsequent effects on decomposition dynamics. The purpose of this study was to quantify and compare patterns of litterfall and decomposition in mature redcedar forests and adjacent prairie. Annual redcedar litterfall was 500 g·m-2·year-1, a large increase in foliar litter inputs compared with annually burned grassland (52 g·m-2·year-1). Using a reciprocal transplant decomposition study with four substrates, redcedar leaves and roots, and big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii Vitman) foliage and roots, we found marginal habitat effects, but greater differences between species, presumably owing to litter quality (including both C:N and lignin content). Decay rates were significantly higher in the prairie relative to the forest for each substrate. Additionally, within any particular habitat, grass litter had significantly faster decay rates than forest litter. These results suggest a shift in patterns of litter input and decomposition processes with afforestation of tallgrass prairie, which may result in long-term changes in C sequestration and storage.Key words: litter dynamics, eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), decomposition, tallgrass prairie, nitrogen immobilization.