Leaf litter decomposition of the most abundant native and exotic woody species in the piedmont of Yungas forest, Tucumán, Argentina.
Exotic species may influence the process of decomposition, either directly (through differences in the quality and/or quantity of leaf-litter) or indirectly (by altering microclimatic conditions and the abundance and/or activity of decomposers). The aims of our study were: (I) to compare the decomposability of the most abundant exotic and native species in secondary forests of the Sierra de San Javier, Tucumán, (II) to assess the effect of microenvironmental conditions on the rate of decomposition of an homogeneous substrate and (III) to evaluate the effect of the litterbags mesh size on the decomposition process. To do this, we incubated leaf-litter of 7 native and 7 exotic species under standard conditions for one year and also leaf-litter of Populus deltoides (homogeneous substrate) in native and invaded by Ligustrum lucidum secondary forest patches in bags with two mesh sizes. Native and exotic species did not differ in their weight loss rates, but there were interspecific differences. The decay constant of the homogeneous substrate was lower in invaded patches so it is possible that L. lucidum modify the composition and /or activity of decomposing organisms and generate changes in micro-environmental conditions. In addition, decomposition was higher in bags with larger mesh size. This pattern may be explained by the differential access of macro invertebrates. Our results suggest the absence of a pattern of decay in native and exotic species as groups, and the potential influence that L. lucidum would have over the factors controlling littler decomposition.