Synergistic interactions between detritivores disappear under reduced rainfall


Joly F, McAvoy E & Subke J (2021) Synergistic interactions between detritivores disappear under reduced rainfall. Ecology, 102 (4), Art. No.: e03299.

Understanding the consequences of altered rainfall patterns on litter decomposition is critical to predicting the feedback effect of climate change on atmospheric CO2 concentrations. While their effect on microbial decomposition received considerable attention, their effect on litter fragmentation by detritivores, the other dominant decomposition pathway, remains largely unexplored. Particularly, it remains unclear how different detritivore species and their interactions respond to changes in rainfall quantity and frequency. To fill this knowledge gap, we determined the contribution to litter decomposition of two detritivore species (millipede and isopod), separately and in combination, under contrasting rainfall quantity and frequency in a temperate forest. Although halving rainfall quantity and frequency decreased top-soil moisture by 7.8 and 13.1%, respectively, neither millipede- nor isopod-driven decomposition were affected by these changes. In contrast, decomposition driven by both detritivore species in combination was 65.5% higher than expected based on monospecific treatments under high rainfall quantity, but unchanged or even lower under low rainfall quantity. This indicates that while detritivore activity is relatively insensitive to changes in rainfall patterns, large synergistic interactions between detritivore species may disappear under future rainfall patterns. Incorporating interspecific interactions between decomposers thus seems critical to evaluate the sensitivity of decomposition to altered rainfall patterns.

Carbon cycling; Climate change; Isopod; Litter decomposition; Millipede; Precipitation regime; Rainfall pattern; Soil moisture

Ecology: Volume 102, Issue 4

FundersThe British Ecological Society and NERC Natural Environment Research Council
Publication date30/04/2021
Publication date online10/02/2021
Date accepted by journal05/02/2021