To investigate the role of species-specific litter decomposability in determining plant community structure, we constructed a theoretical model of the codevelopmental dynamics of soil and vegetation. This model incorporates feedback between vegetation and soil. Vegetation changes the nutrient conditions of soil by affecting mineralization processes; soil, in turn, has an impact on plant community structure. The model shows that species-level traits (decomposability, reproductive and competitive abilities) determine whether litter feedback effects are positive or negative. The feedback determines community-level properties, such as species composition and community stability against invasion. The model predicts that positive feedback may generate multiple alternative steady states of the plant community, which differ in species richness or community composition. In such cases, the realized state is determined by initial abundance of co-occurring species. Further, the model shows that the importance of species-level traits depends on environmental conditions such as system fertility.
- Litter feedback
- Litter quality
- Species-level effects on material cycling