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Intraspecific variability in leaf traits strongly affects alder leaf decomposition in a stream

Abstract : This study assessed the intraspecific variability of senescent leaves of alder (Alnus glutinosa Gaertn.) and the effects of this variability on leaf decomposition in streams. Leaves were collected at five geographically distant locations in Europe. We analyzed 10 batches of leaf samples for seven quantitative leaf traits as well as leaf decomposition rate in coarse and fine mesh bags exposed in a single stream. The geographic origin of leaf samples largely explained the observed variation in litter quality and decomposition rate. Phosphorus (0.034–0.187%) and lignin (3.9–18.7%) concentrations in leaves varied widely. Together, these two traits accurately predicted leaf decomposition rate (r2 = 84.1%). Intraspecific variation in leaf decomposition rate was within a range similar to that reported for interspecific variation among co- occurring riparian plant species in Europe. Our study demonstrates extensive intraspecific variability in leaf traits on a continental scale, which can have enormous effects on major ecosystem processes such as leaf decomposition.
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Antoine Lecerf, Eric Chauvet. Intraspecific variability in leaf traits strongly affects alder leaf decomposition in a stream. Basic and Applied Ecology, Elsevier, 2008, vol. 9 (n° 5), pp. 598-605. ⟨10.1016/j.baae.2007.11.003⟩. ⟨hal-01312780⟩

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