Litter accumulation and biomass dynamics in riparian zones in tropical South America of the Asian invasive plant Hedychium coronarium J. König (Zingiberaceae).
Background: Promoting changes in abiotic conditions and ecosystem processes, such as decomposition, is a mechanism by which some exotic plant species displace native plants and become invasive. Aims: We monitored ramets of Hedychium coronarium over 30 months to estimate the litter decay rate, biomass dynamics and litter accumulation over time in riparian sites invaded by the species in southeastern Brazil. Methods: We measured the number, height, emergence and mortality of ramets in three environments invaded by H. coronarium (natural, rural and urban). We also measured litter decay in situ and in in vitro experiments. We used sinusoidal models to describe height fluctuation and exponential models to simulate litter decay and litter accumulation. Results: Ramets of H. coronarium showed high seasonal variation in terms of height and emergence, as well as low litter decay. Accordingly, our models predicted high litter production and a seasonal pattern of litter accumulation in invaded sites. Conclusions: H. coronarium produces a great amount of litter, which shows slow decay and hence seems to affect decomposition processes. Investigating seasonal variation on the effects of invasive species on ecosystem functioning shed light on the factors driving the success and impact of invasive plants.