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Resolving the Dryland Decomposition Conundrum: Some New Perspectives

Summary: Resolving the Dryland Decomposition
Conundrum: Some New Perspectives
on Potential Drivers
Heather L. Throop(* ) and Steven R. Archer
Abstract Decomposition of organic matter is a crucial component of biogeochemical
cycles that strongly controls nutrient availability, productivity, and community
composition. The factors controlling decomposition of litter in arid and semi-arid
systems remain poorly understood, with an unresolved disconnect between meas-
ured and modeled decay rates. In contrast, decay rates in mesic systems are gener-
ally quite successfully predicted by models driven by climatic variables. Here, we
explore the reasons for this disconnect by reviewing literature on the biotic and
abiotic controls over dryland decomposition. Recent research on decomposition
in drylands suggests that several key drivers of dryland decomposition have been
historically overlooked and not included in models. In particular, UV photodegra-
dation and soil transport processes, both a function of vegetation structure, may
strongly influence dryland decomposition dynamics. We propose an expanded
framework for studying dryland decay that explicitly addresses vegetation structure
and its influence on decomposition. Spatial heterogeneity of vegetation in dryland
systems necessitates considering how the spatial and temporal context of vegetation
influences soil transport patterns and UV photodegradation, both of which may in


Source: Archer, Steven R. - Savanna/Woodland Ecology Lab., School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona


Collections: Environmental Sciences and Ecology