Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 July 2009
Seasonal variations in the breakdown and dynamics of chemical elements in Ficus fistulosa leaves in a mixed forest on Hong Kong Island were investigated between October 1982 and September 1983. Mean rate of leaf material weight loss from coarse-mesh (3 mm) bags was 1.82% day-1, about four times that inside fine-mesh (0.2 mm) bags (mean rate 0.44% day-1). Breakdown rates varied seasonally with maximum rates in spring or summer, and were significantly correlated with prevailing temperatures, the rainfall of the two previous months, and the soil moisture content of the previous month. Potassium and Mg were rapidly leached from leaf material throughout the year while the concentrations of C, N, P, Ca and Na remained relatively stable. In the absence of macrofauna (inside fine-mesh bags) decomposition rate constants (k) were positively correlated with the mean abundance of mites and Collembola, as well as with total invertebrate abundance. In the presence of macrofauna (inside coarse-mesh bags) decomposition rate constants were positively correlated with isopod and amphipod abundance. There was no significant correlation between breakdown rates of leaf material and mesofaunal abundance inside coarse-mesh bags. The importance of climate and invertebrates as rate determinants of Ficus decomposition is discussed.