Journal Article Bleaching of leaf litter and associated microfungi in subboreal and subalpine forests.

Hagiwara, Yusuke  ,  Matsuoka, Shunsuke  ,  Hobara, Satoru  ,  Mori, Akira S  ,  Hirose, Dai  ,  Osono, Takashi

61 ( 10 )  , pp.735 - 743 , 2015-10 , NRC Research Press
Fungal decomposition of lignin leads to the whitening, or bleaching, of leaf litter, especially in temperate and tropical forests, but less is known about such bleaching in forests of cooler regions, such as boreal and subalpine forests. The purposes of the present study were to examine the extent of bleached area on the surface of leaf litter and its variation with environmental conditions in subboreal and subalpine forests in Japan and to examine the microfungi associated with the bleaching of leaf litter by isolating fungi from the bleached portions of the litter. Bleached area accounted for 21.7%-32.7% and 2.0%-10.0% of total leaf area of Quercus crispula and Betula ermanii, respectively, in subboreal forests, and for 6.3% and 18.6% of total leaf area of B. ermanii and Picea jezoensis var. hondoensis, respectively, in a subalpine forest. In subboreal forests, elevation, C/N ratio and pH of the FH layer, and slope aspect were selected as predictor variables for the bleached leaf area. Leaf mass per area and lignin content were consistently lower in the bleached area than in the nonbleached area of the same leaves, indicating that the selective decomposition of acid unhydrolyzable residue (recalcitrant compounds such as lignin, tannins, and cutins) enhanced the mass loss of leaf tissues in the bleached portions. Isolates of a total of 11 fungal species (6 species of Ascomycota and 5 of Basidiomycota) exhibited leaf-litter-bleaching activity under pure culture conditions. Two fungal species (Coccomyces sp. and Mycena sp.) occurred in both subboreal and subalpine forests, which were separated from each other by approximately 1100 km.

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