Leaf-litter decomposition of 15 tree species in a lowland tropical rain forest in Sarawak: Decomposition rates and initial litter chemistry

Muneto Hirobe, John Sabang, Balram K. Bhatta, Hiroshi Takeda

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In a lowland tropical rain forest in Sarawak, leaf-litter decomposition and the initial litter chemistry of 15 tree species were studied. During 13 months of field experiment, weight loss of litter samples was between 44% and 91%, and calculated decomposition rate constants (k) ranged from 0.38 to 2.36 year -1. The initial litter chemistry also varied widely (coefficients of variation: 19%-74%) and showed low N and P concentrations and high acid-insoluble residue (AIS) concentration. For nutrient-related litter chemistry, correlations with the decomposition rate were significant only for P concentration, C/P ratio, and AIS/P ratio (r s = 0.59, -0.62, and -0.68, n = 15, P <0.05, respectively). For organic constituents, correlations were significant for concentrations of AIS and total carbohydrates, and AIS/acid-soluble carbohydrate ratio (r s = -0.81, 0.51, and -0.76, n = 15, P <0.05, respectively). These results suggested that the relatively slow mean rate of decomposition (k = 1.10) was presumably due to the low litter quality (low P concentration and high AIS concentration), and that P might influence the decomposition rate; but organic constituents, especially the concentration of AIS, were more important components of initial litter chemistry than nutrient concentrations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-346
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Forest Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2004
Externally publishedYes



  • Initial litter chemistry
  • Litter decomposition
  • Nutrients
  • Organic constituents
  • Tropical rain forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)

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