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Land use control of invertebrate communities and decomposition

Laura Livingston

Advisor: Professor Lynn Christenson

Decomposition is a key ecosystem function that contributes to primary productivity and soil carbon storage. Climate, litter quality, and soil organisms regulate decomposition rates. In much of the northeastern United States, including Dutchess County, land use change has contributed to landscapes composed of multiple land-uses, including forested, agricultural, and suburban areas. These land-uses have characteristic vegetation communities that potentially differ in structure, plant species and functional group composition, and habitat provision. These traits of the vegetation communities associated with different land-uses may influence microclimate, litter quality, and soil organisms and thus potentially influence decomposition rates. Litter and soil invertebrates are key players in beginning decomposition by breaking apart and eating litter and fecal matter. Yet the role of invertebrate community composition on decomposition is unclear. Different land-uses may influence the soil invertebrate community composition by providing differ litter material as habitat. The Ecological Preserve maintains different land uses such as lawns, fields, and forest. I’m measuring decomposition rates and characterizing the litter and soil invertebrate communities in those three land use types as part of answering the question of how land use influences decomposition rates.