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Litter degradation rate and β-glucosidase activity increase with fungal diversity

LeBauer, David S.
Canadian journal of forest research = 2010 v.40 no.6 pp. 1076-1085
decay fungi, species diversity, forest litter, degradation, enzyme activity, beta-glucosidase, carbon dioxide, correlation
Declining biodiversity is a critical component of global change owing to its influence on ecosystem functioning. Decomposition rate frequently increases with fungal species number, but the responses of extracellular enzymes to fungal species number have not been tested. To test the effect of biodiversity on decomposition and enzyme activities, quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) litter was inoculated with mixtures of one, two, four, or eight fungi from a pool of 16 fungi that had been isolated from a boreal forest in Alaska. Total CO2 release and the activities of β-glucosidase, which targets cellulose, and polyphenol oxidase, which targets lignin and other recalcitrant phenolic compounds, were observed across the range of species numbers in the mixtures. Total CO2 release and β-glucosidase activity increased with number of species but were only weakly correlated with each other; polyphenol oxidase activity had no correlation with number of species or CO2 release. The results indicate that, over 4 months, decomposition of labile carbon is positively correlated with number of species.