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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2014

  • Title: Do ants alter decomposition rates in hemlock and hardwood New England forests?
  • Primary Author: Relena Ribbons (University of Copenhagen)
  • Additional Authors: Israel Del Toro (University of Massachusetts )
  • Abstract:

    Ants are known to play important roles in mediating ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling and soil movement. In this study we aimed to quantify the effects of ants on decomposition rates of hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and mixed hardwoods litter (Acer rubrum and Quercus rubra). This experiment is set-up within the Hemlock Removal experiment (HF-HeRE) at Simes and was established in 2012 and the last collection is scheduled for this summer. Decomposition bags were placed within the ant exclusion, ant addition, and control subplots within three forest types: control hemlock, control hardwoods, and girdled hemlock (to simulate the loss the hemlock due to woolly adelgid), and is replicated within the two blocks at Simes. Leaf litter was reciprocally transplanted across all forest types (e.g. mixed hardwoods litter was placed in hemlock forests). Early results indicate the forest type that litter is decomposing within has a larger effect on decomposition rates than ants, but the final collection will yield insights into the potential longer-term effects of ants on decomposition.

  • Research Category: Group Projects, Invasive Plants, Pests & Pathogens, Large Experiments and Permanent Plot Studies, Soil Carbon and Nitrogen Dynamics