Parasites boost productivity: effects of mistletoe on litterfall dynamics in a temperate Australian forest.

Wendy March, David Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The importance of litter in regulating ecosystem processes has long been recognised, with a growing appreciation of the differential contribution of various functional plant groups. Despite the ubiquity of mistletoes in terrestrial ecosystems and their prominence in ecological studies, they are one group that have been overlooked in litter research. This study evaluated the litter contribution from a hemiparasitic mistletoe, Amyema miquelii (Lehm. ex Miq.) Tiegh., in an open eucalypt forest (Eucalyptus blakelyi, E. dwyeri and E. dealbata), at three scales; the forest stand, single trees and individual mistletoes. Litter from mistletoes significantly increased overall litterfall by up to 189%, the amount of mistletoe litter being proportional to the mistletoe biomass in the canopy. The high litter input was due to a much higher rate of mistletoe leaf turnover than that of host trees; the host litterfall and rate of leaf turnover was not significantly affected by mistletoe presence. The additional litter from mistletoes also affected the spatial and temporal distribution of litterfall due to the patchy distribution of mistletoes and their prolonged period of high litterfall. Associated with these changes in litterfall was an increase in ground litter mass and plant productivity, which reflects similar findings with root-parasitic plants. These findings represent novel mechanisms underlying the role of mistletoes as keystone resources and provide further evidence of the importance of parasites in affecting trophic dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-347
Number of pages9
JournalOecologia
Volume154
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007

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Santalales
litterfall
parasite
litter
parasites
productivity
turnover
parasitic plant
Eucalyptus blakelyi
Amyema
effect
terrestrial ecosystem
temporal distribution
parasitic plants
canopy
forest stands
spatial distribution

Cite this

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title = "Parasites boost productivity: effects of mistletoe on litterfall dynamics in a temperate Australian forest.",
abstract = "The importance of litter in regulating ecosystem processes has long been recognised, with a growing appreciation of the differential contribution of various functional plant groups. Despite the ubiquity of mistletoes in terrestrial ecosystems and their prominence in ecological studies, they are one group that have been overlooked in litter research. This study evaluated the litter contribution from a hemiparasitic mistletoe, Amyema miquelii (Lehm. ex Miq.) Tiegh., in an open eucalypt forest (Eucalyptus blakelyi, E. dwyeri and E. dealbata), at three scales; the forest stand, single trees and individual mistletoes. Litter from mistletoes significantly increased overall litterfall by up to 189{\%}, the amount of mistletoe litter being proportional to the mistletoe biomass in the canopy. The high litter input was due to a much higher rate of mistletoe leaf turnover than that of host trees; the host litterfall and rate of leaf turnover was not significantly affected by mistletoe presence. The additional litter from mistletoes also affected the spatial and temporal distribution of litterfall due to the patchy distribution of mistletoes and their prolonged period of high litterfall. Associated with these changes in litterfall was an increase in ground litter mass and plant productivity, which reflects similar findings with root-parasitic plants. These findings represent novel mechanisms underlying the role of mistletoes as keystone resources and provide further evidence of the importance of parasites in affecting trophic dynamics.",
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Parasites boost productivity : effects of mistletoe on litterfall dynamics in a temperate Australian forest. / March, Wendy; Watson, David.

In: Oecologia, Vol. 154, No. 2, 11.2007, p. 339-347.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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KW - Hemiparasite

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