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Type: Journal article
Title: Parasites boost productivity: Effects of mistletoe on litterfall dynamics in a temperate Australian forest
Author: March, W.
Watson, D.
Citation: Oecologia, 2007; 154(2):339-347
Publisher: Springer
Issue Date: 2007
ISSN: 0029-8549
Statement of
Wendy A. March and David M. Watson
Abstract: The importance of litter in regulating ecosystem processes has long been recognised, with a growing appreciation of the differential contribution of various functional plant groups. Despite the ubiquity of mistletoes in terrestrial ecosystems and their prominence in ecological studies, they are one group that have been overlooked in litter research. This study evaluated the litter contribution from a hemiparasitic mistletoe, Amyema miquelii (Lehm. ex Miq.) Tiegh., in an open eucalypt forest (Eucalyptus blakelyi, E. dwyeri and E. dealbata), at three scales; the forest stand, single trees and individual mistletoes. Litter from mistletoes significantly increased overall litterfall by up to 189%, the amount of mistletoe litter being proportional to the mistletoe biomass in the canopy. The high litter input was due to a much higher rate of mistletoe leaf turnover than that of host trees; the host litterfall and rate of leaf turnover was not significantly affected by mistletoe presence. The additional litter from mistletoes also affected the spatial and temporal distribution of litterfall due to the patchy distribution of mistletoes and their prolonged period of high litterfall. Associated with these changes in litterfall was an increase in ground litter mass and plant productivity, which reflects similar findings with root-parasitic plants. These findings represent novel mechanisms underlying the role of mistletoes as keystone resources and provide further evidence of the importance of parasites in affecting trophic dynamics.
Keywords: Leaf litter
Leaf lifespan
Eucalyptus forests
Description: The definitive version can be found at
DOI: 10.1007/s00442-007-0835-7
Published version:
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