Effects of residue management on decomposition in irrigated rice fields are not related to changes in the decomposer community

Publication Type:
Journal Article
PLoS ONE, 2015, 10 (7)
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Copyright: © 2015 Schmidt et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Decomposers provide an essential ecosystem service that contributes to sustainable production in rice ecosystems by driving the release of nutrients from organic crop residues. During a single rice crop cycle we examined the effects of four different crop residue management practices (rice straw or ash of burned straw scattered on the soil surface or incorporated into the soil) on rice straw decomposition and on the abundance of aquatic and soildwelling invertebrates. Mass loss of rice straw in litterbags of two different mesh sizes that either prevented or allowed access of meso- and macro-invertebrates was used as a proxy for decomposition rates. Invertebrates significantly increased total loss of litter mass by up to 30%. Initially, the contribution of invertebrates to decomposition was significantly smaller in plots with rice straw scattered on the soil surface; however, this effect disappeared later in the season. We found no significant responses in microbial decomposition rates to management practices. The abundance of aquatic fauna was higher in fields with rice straw amendment, whereas the abundance of soil fauna fluctuated considerably. There was a clear separation between the overall invertebrate community structure in response to the ash and straw treatments. However, we found no correlation between litter mass loss and abundances of various lineages of invertebrates. Our results indicate that invertebrates can contribute to soil fertility in irrigated paddy fields by decomposing rice straw, and that their abundance as well as efficiency in decomposition may be promoted by crop residue management practices.
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