Anales del Jardín Botánico de Madrid, Vol 61, No 1 (2004)

Descomposición de helófitos en un humedal semiárido hipertrófico

Maria Dolores Ribeiro Orge
Dpto. de Ciencias Exatas e da Terra, Universidade do Estado da Bahia, Brazil

Miguel Álvarez Cobelas
Centro de Ciencias Medioambientales, Madrid, Spain

Palmira Riolobos
Centro de Ciencias Medioambientales, Madrid, Spain

Santos Cirujano
Real Jardín Botánico, Madrid, Spain


This study represents the first attempt to outline the dynamics of litter decomposition of Cladium mariscus (cut-sedge) and Phragmites australis (common-reed) in Las Tablas de Daimiel National Park (Central Spain). From April 1998 to September 1999, two experiments were conducted to measure the overall decomposition in large-pore bags (7 months) and the chemical-microbiological decomposition in entire bags (14 months). Despite the hypertrophic condition of the wetland, that might have enhanced plant litter decaying rates, decomposition was a slow process in Las Tablas de Daimiel for both species, resulting in more than 50% of initial biomass a year and a half later. There were no significant correlations between environmental variables and decomposition rates. An initial phase of leaching with the highest rates (P < 0.05) of mass loss and nutrients occurred for both plant species. Throughout the incubation period, no significant differences were observed between both species and experiments, and the average daily rates of mass loss were low: 0.0022 ± 0.001 day–1 for C. mariscus and 0.0029 ± 0.002 day–1 for P. australis in the overall decomposition experiment, and respectively 0.0019 ± 0.001 day–1 and 0.0016 ± 0.001 day–1 due to chemical-microbiological decomposition, suggesting the negligible significance of invertebrates in the plant decomposition process. Furthermore, no significant difference was observed for nutrient release, except that Phragmites lost more phosphorus (P < 0.1) than Cladium. Plant litter decaying rates were roughly an order of magnitude lower than nutrient release rates in both species. Our results suggest that slow decomposition rates of helophitic plant biomass increases organic matter sedimentation and reduces water quality of Las Tablas de Daimiel National Park.


Cladium mariscus; decomposition; hypertrophic wetland; LasTablas de Daimiel National Park; leaching; nitrogen; phosphorus; Phragmites australis; Spain

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