Fungal decomposers of leaf litter from an invaded and native mountain forest of NW Argentina.
The impact of plant species invasions on the abundance, composition and activity of fungal decomposers of leaf litter is poorly understood. In this study, we isolated and compared the relative abundance of ligninocellulolytic fungi of leaf litter mixtures from a native forest and a forest invaded by Ligustrum lucidum in a lower mountain forest of Tucuman, Argentina. In addition, we evaluated the relationship between the relative abundance of ligninocellulolytic fungi and properties of the soil of both forest types. Finally, we identified lignin degrading fungi and characterized their polyphenol oxidase activities. The relative abundance of ligninocellulolytic fungi was higher in leaf litter mixtures from the native forest. The abundance of cellulolytic fungi was negatively related with soil pH while the abundance of ligninolytic fungi was positively related with soil humidity. We identified fifteen genera of ligninolytic fungi; four strains were isolated from both forest types, six strains only from the invaded forest and five strains were isolated only from the native forest. The results found in this study suggest that L. Lucidum invasion could alter the abundance and composition of fungal decomposers. Long-term studies that include an analysis of the nutritional quality of litter are needed, for a more complete overview of the influence of L. Lucidum invasion on fungal decomposers and on leaf litter decomposition.