Fungal Contributions to Carbon Flow and Nutrient Cycling During Decomposition of Standing Typha domingensis Leaves In a Subtropical Freshwater Marsh

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Biological Sciences


  1. Despite the well‐known occurrence of ‘standing‐dead’ emergent plant litter in freshwater marshes, the role of fungi in its decomposition is poorly known. Here, we quantified the growth and biomass dynamics of fungi associated with standing‐dead Typha domingensis leaves, estimated the contribution of fungi to carbon flow during decomposition and assessed their contribution to nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) cycling.
  2. In a subtropical freshwater marsh, standing leaves of T. domingensis were sampled in August while living (green) and then monthly during leaf senescence and standing‐dead decomposition for 1 year. Leaf samples were analysed for mass loss, fungal biomass (ergosterol), rates of fungal production (14C‐acetate incorporation) and microbial respiration (CO2 evolution), and for litter chitin (glucosamine), carbon, N and P concentrations.
  3. Losses in T. domingensis leaf carbon (37%) occurred during senescence and standing decomposition. During this time, increases in ergosterol and chitin concentrations were observed in the standing litter, indicating the rapid colonisation of decaying Typha leaves by fungi. Estimated fungal biomass (from ergosterol) reached a maximum of 37 mg C g−1 detrital C.
  4. Over the entire study period, estimated cumulative fungal production in standing Typha litter was 39 mg C g−1 initial detrital C, indicating that 11% of leaf C was converted to fungal C. The corresponding estimate of cumulative microbial respiration was 136 mg C g−1 initial detrital C, indicating that 37% of Typha leaf litter C was mineralised by microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) during decomposition. Fungi also immobilised up to c.27% and c.55% of the total detrital N and P, respectively.
  5. Fungi play an important role in the cycling of C and nutrients in freshwater marshes, and this should be integrated into current models that describe major biogeochemical pathways.

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Freshwater Biology





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