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Ecosystem functioning in cities: Combined effects of urbanisation and forest size on early-stage leaf litter decomposition of European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.)

Melliger, Ramona Laila and Rusterholz, Hans-Peter and Baur, Bruno. (2017) Ecosystem functioning in cities: Combined effects of urbanisation and forest size on early-stage leaf litter decomposition of European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.). Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 28. pp. 88-96.

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Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/58972/

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Abstract

Environmental changes associated with urbanisation can affect the functioning of ecosystem processes. In cities, forests are among the most frequent types of green areas and provide a wide range of ecosystem services including air cleaning, decomposition of leaf litter and recreation. The European beech (Fagus sylvatica) is a frequent and widespread deciduous tree in temperate forests in Central Europe. In this study, we examined the effects of urbanisation on decomposition processes of F. sylvatica leaves in different-sized forests in the urban region of Basel, Switzerland. We used standardised litterbags (mesh size: 2 mm) with F. sylvatica leaves to assess the impact of degree of urbanisation (indicated by the percentage cover of sealed area in the surroundings) and forest size on the early stage of leaf litter decomposition and seasonal microbial activity. We found combined effects of degree of urbanisation and forest size on the decomposition rate of leaf litter (klitter). Large forests showed the highest klitter in areas with sparse settlements and the lowest klitter in densely settled areas, whereas the opposite pattern was recorded for small and medium-sized forests. This indicates that abiotic and biotic forest characteristics of forests of similar size differently influenced klitter depending on the degree of urbanisation. Moisture content of litter was the best predictor of microbial activity, followed by forest size. We assume that factors acting at the landscape scale such as the degree of urbanisation might be too coarse to detect any differences in microbial activity. Our results revealed that even small urban forests contribute to this important ecosystem function. As decomposers are at the bottom of the food chain, management actions that support the biological activity in soil might be also beneficial for species at higher trophic ranks.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Integrative Biologie > Naturschutzbiologie (Baur)
UniBasel Contributors:Baur, Bruno and Melliger, Ramona and Rusterholz, Hans-Peter
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:1618-8667
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
Identification Number:
Last Modified:18 Jun 2018 12:58
Deposited On:18 Jun 2018 12:58

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