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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Department Soil Ecology - Prof. Dr. Eva Lehndorff

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Stadler, B; Schramm, A; Kalbitz, K: Ant-mediated effects on spruce litter decomposition, solution chemistry, and microbial activity, Soil Biology Biochemistry, 38, 561-572 (2006)
Forest management practices often generate clear-cut patches, which may be colonized by ants not present in the same densities in mature forests. In addition to the associated changes in abiotic conditions ants can initiate processes, which do not occur in old-growth stands. Here, we analyse the effects of ants and aphid honeydew on litter solution of Norway spruce, microbial enzyme activities, and needle decomposition in a field and greenhouse experiment during summer 2003. In the field, low ant densities had relatively little effects on litter solution 30 cm away from a tree trunk, but significantly increased organic carbon concentrations and decreased inorganic nitrogen concentrations next to a trunk where ants tend to build their nests. In a greenhouse experiment, the addition of ants to lysimeters containing spruce litter significantly increased dissolved organic carbon (DOC), dissolved organic nitrogen (DON)next term, NH4–N, NO3–N and K concentrations in litter solutions compared to the control treatment, while the simulation of aphid infestation (addition of honeydew) significantly increased DOC as a direct result of honeydew leaching, and decreased inorganic N concentrations in leachates. The presence of ants resulted in a changed composition of dissolved organic matter (DOM) with more aromatic and complex compounds, and microbial enzyme activity was significantly higher in litter extracts from the ant treatment compared to the honeydew and control treatment. However, mass loss, litter %C and %N were not affected by ants or honeydew. Our results suggest that ants have a distinct and immediate effect on solution composition and microbial activity in the litter layer indicating accelerated litter decay whereas the effect of honeydew was insignificant. Neue Seite 1


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