Cottonwood hybridization effects tannin and nitrogen content of leaf litter and alters decomposition

E. M. Driebe, Thomas G Whitham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

96 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Cottonwoods are dominant riparian trees of the western United States and are known for their propensity to hybridize. We compared the decomposition of leaf litter from two species (Populus angustifolia and P. fremontii) and their hybrids. Three patterns were found. First, in one terrestrial and two aquatic experiments, decomposition varied twofold among tree types. Second, backcross hybrid leaves decomposed more slowly than those of either parent. Third, the variation in decomposition between F1 and backcross hybrids was as great as the variation between species. These results show significant differences in decomposition in a low-diversity system, where >80% of the leaf litter comes from just two species and their hybrids. Mechanistically, high concentrations of condensed tannins in leaves appear to inhibit decomposition (r1=0.63). The initial condensed tannin concentration was high in narrowleaf leaves, low or undetectable in Fremont leaves, and intermediate in F1 hybrid leaves (additive inheritance). Backcross hybrids were high in condensed tannins and were not different from narrowleaf (dominant inheritance). Neither nitrogen (N) concentration nor the ratio of ash-free dry weight to N (a surrogate for carbon:nitrogen ratio) were significantly correlated with decomposition. The N content of leaf material at the end of each year's experiment was inversely correlated with rates of litter mass loss and varied 1.6- to 2.1-fold among tree classes. This result suggests that hybrids and their parental species are used differently by the microbial community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-107
Number of pages9
JournalOecologia
Volume123
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2000

Fingerprint

tannin
leaf litter
plant litter
nitrogen content
tannins
hybridization
decomposition
degradation
nitrogen
proanthocyanidins
leaves
inheritance (genetics)
Populus angustifolia
Populus fremontii
tree classes
Western United States
effect
carbon nitrogen ratio
microbial communities
microbial community

Keywords

  • Condensed tannins
  • Decomposition
  • Hybridization
  • Litter quality
  • Populus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology

Cite this

Cottonwood hybridization effects tannin and nitrogen content of leaf litter and alters decomposition. / Driebe, E. M.; Whitham, Thomas G.

In: Oecologia, Vol. 123, No. 1, 04.2000, p. 99-107.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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