Invasive Andropogon gayanus (Gamba grass) alters litter decomposition and nitrogen fluxes in an Australian tropical savanna

N. A. Rossiter-Rachor, S. A. Setterfield, L. B. Hutley, D. McMaster, S. Schmidt, M. M. Douglas

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    Abstract

    The African grass Andropogon gayanus Kunth. is invading Australian savannas, altering their ecological and biogeochemical function. To assess impacts on nitrogen (N) cycling, we quantified litter decomposition and N dynamics of grass litter in native grass and A. gayanus invaded savanna using destructive in situ grass litter harvests and litterbag incubations (soil surface and aerial position). Only 30% of the A. gayanus in situ litter decomposed, compared to 61% of the native grass litter, due to the former being largely comprised of highly resistant A. gayanus stem. In contrast to the stem, A. gayanus leaf decomposition was approximately 3- A nd 2-times higher than the dominant native grass, Alloteropsis semilata at the surface and aerial position, respectively. Lower initial lignin concentrations, and higher consumption by termites, accounted for the greater surface decomposition rate of A. gayanus. N flux estimates suggest the N release of A. gayanus litter is insufficient to compensate for increased N uptake and N loss via fire in invaded plots. Annually burnt invaded savanna may lose up to 8.2% of the upper soil N pool over a decade. Without additional inputs via biological N fixation, A. gayanus invasion is likely to diminish the N capital of Australia's frequently burnt savannas.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number11705
    Pages (from-to)1-10
    Number of pages10
    JournalScientific Reports
    Volume7
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

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