The influence of the invasive shrub, Lonicera maackii, on leaf decomposition and microbial community dynamics

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Plant Ecology


Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) is an exotic invasive shrub that is rapidly expanding into forests of eastern North America. This species forms a dense forest understory, alters tree regeneration, negatively affects herb-layer biodiversity, and alters ecosystem function. In a second-growth forest in central Kentucky, we examined the timing and production of leaf litter and compared litter chemistry, decay rates, and microbial community colonization of Amur honeysuckle to that of two native trees, white ash (Fraxinus americana) and hickory (Carya spp.). The distribution of Amur honeysuckle was clumped, allowing us to compare differences in decomposition under and away from Amur honeysuckle shrubs. Amur honeysuckle leaf litter had significantly higher nitrogen, lower C:N, and lower lignin than the other species, and decomposition rates were greater than 5× faster. Despite the much higher rate of Amur honeysuckle decomposition compared with the native species (p < 0.0001), decomposition of all species was significantly slower (p = 0.0489) in sites located under Amur honeysuckle shrubs. Nitrogen concentration increased through time in decomposing Amur honeysuckle litter; however, total mass of N rapidly declined. We found the initial microbial community on leaf litter of Amur honeysuckle was distinct from two native species and although all microbial communities changed through time, the microbial community of Amur honeysuckle remained distinct from native communities. In summary, a distinct microbial community that may originate on Amur honeysuckle leaves prior to senescence could explain the rapid decay rates.

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McEwan Laboratory, Invasive species, Eastern deciduous forest, Amur honeysuckle, Litter decomposition, Microbial community, C:N