Factors controlling bark decomposition and its role in wood decomposition in five tropical tree species
Organic matter decomposition represents a vital ecosystem process by which nutrients are made available for plant uptake and is a major flux in the global carbon cycle. Previous studies have investigated decomposition of different plant parts, but few considered bark decomposition or its role in decomposition of wood. However, bark can comprise a large fraction of tree biomass. We used a common litter-bed approach to investigate factors affecting bark decomposition and its role in wood decomposition for five tree species in a secondary seasonal tropical rain forest in SW China. For bark, we implemented a litter bag experiment over 12 mo, using different mesh sizes to investigate effects of litter meso- and macro-fauna. For wood, we compared the decomposition of branches with and without bark over 24 mo. Bark in coarse mesh bags decomposed 1.11–1.76 times faster than bark in fine mesh bags. For wood decomposition, responses to bark removal were species dependent. Three species with slow wood decomposition rates showed significant negative effects of bark-removal, but there was no significant effect in the other two species. Future research should also separately examine bark and wood decomposition, and consider bark-removal experiments to better understand roles of bark in wood decomposition.