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Web Ecology An open-access peer-reviewed journal
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Volume 16, issue 1 | Copyright
Web Ecol., 16, 51-58, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/we-16-51-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Standard article 11 Feb 2016

Standard article | 11 Feb 2016

Impacts of land-use intensification on litter decomposition in western Kenya

G. H. Kagezi1, M. Kaib2,*, P. Nyeko3, C. Bakuneeta4, M. Schädler5, J. Stadler5, and R. Brandl6 G. H. Kagezi et al.
  • 1Department of Ecology/Animal, Faculty of Biology, Philipps-Universität Marburg, C/o National Banana Research Programme, National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL) Institute, Kawanda, P.O. Box 7065 Kampala, Uganda
  • 2Department of Animal Physiology, University of Bayreuth, 95440 Bayreuth, Germany
  • 3Department of Forest Biology and Ecosystems Management, Faculty of Forestry and Nature Conservation, Makerere University, P.O. Box 7062 Kampala, Uganda
  • 4Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Makerere University, P.O. Box 7062 Kampala, Uganda
  • 5Department of Community Ecology, Helmoltz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Permoserstr. 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
  • 6Department of Ecology/Animal Ecology, Faculty of Biology, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Karl-von-Frisch Strasse 8, 35032 Marburg, Germany
  • *retired; private address: Oberobsang 14, 95445 Bayreuth, Germany

Abstract. Tropical forests are faced with a substantial loss of forest cover due to human activities. The various forms of land use influence habitat structure, microclimate, and co-occurring species, with possible effects on ecosystem processes. The forests of western Kenya are the most eastern parts of the Congolian rainforests. Due to the high human population density only few remnants of these rainforests remained. Even protected areas are influenced by human disturbances, with unknown effects on ecosystem processes. Therefore, we quantified the mass loss of leaf litter with and without access of soil invertebrates within forest fragments and sites affected by increasing levels of agricultural land-use intensity in the Kakamega area (western Kenya; 1500 m a.s.l.). Mass loss of litter as an estimate of decomposition rate increased with rainfall during the annual cycle. Furthermore, mass loss increased with the area of forest fragments and decreased with land-use intensification. We found that soil invertebrates had only small effects on mass loss (< 10 %), and this effect decreased with land-use intensification. Our data showed that forest fragmentation has negative effects on litter decomposition. However, the magnitude of this negative effect was not as large as expected.

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Tropical forests are faced with a loss of forest cover with effects on ecosystem processes. We quantified decomposition within forest fragments and sites affected by increasing levels of agricultural land-use intensity. Mass loss increased with the area of forest fragments and decreased with land-use intensification. Fragmentation has negative effects on litter decomposition. However, the magnitude of this negative effect was not as large as expected.
Tropical forests are faced with a loss of forest cover with effects on ecosystem processes. We...
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