Woodlands are pivotal to carbon stocks, but the process of cycling C is slow and may be most effective in the biodiverse root zone. How the root zone impacts plants has been widely examined over the past few decades, but the role of the root zone in decomposition is understudied. Here, we examined how mycorrhizal association and macroinvertebrate activity influences wood decomposition across diverse tree species. Within the root zone of six predominantly arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) (Acer negundo, Acer saccharum, Prunus serotina, Juglans nigra, Sassafras albidum, and Liriodendron tulipfera) and seven predominantly ectomycorrhizal (EM) tree species (Carya glabra, Quercus alba, Quercus rubra, Betula alleghaniensis, Picea rubens, Pinus virginiana, and Pinus strobus), woody litter was buried for 13 months. Macroinvertebrate access to woody substrate was either prevented or not using 0.22 mm mesh in a common garden site in central Pennsylvania. Decomposition was assessed as proportionate mass loss, as explained by root diameter, phylogenetic signal, mycorrhizal type, canopy tree trait, or macroinvertebrate exclusion. Macroinvertebrate exclusion significantly increased wood decomposition by 5.9%, while mycorrhizal type did not affect wood decomposition, nor did canopy traits (i.e., broad leaves versus pine needles). Interestingly, there was a phylogenetic signal for wood decomposition. Local indicators for phylogenetic associations (LIPA) determined high values of sensitivity value in Pinus and Picea genera, while Carya, Juglans, Betula, and Prunus yielded low values of sensitivity. Phylogenetic signals went undetected for tree root morphology. Despite this, roots greater than 0.35 mm significantly increased woody litter decomposition by 8%. In conclusion, the findings of this study suggest trees with larger root diameters can accelerate C cycling, as can trees associated with certain phylogenetic clades. In addition, root zone macroinvertebrates can potentially limit woody C cycling, while mycorrhizal type does not play a significant role.
Malik, R.J.; Bruns, M.A.V.; Bell, T.H.; Eissenstat, D.M. Phylogenetic Signal, Root Morphology, Mycorrhizal Type, and Macroinvertebrate Exclusion: Exploring Wood Decomposition in Soils Conditioned by 13 Temperate Tree Species. Forests 2022, 13, 536. https://doi.org/10.3390/f13040536