A traits-based test of the home-field advantage in mixed-species tree litter decomposition

Mark Davidson Jewell, Bill Shipley, Alain Paquette, Christian Messier, Peter B. Reich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background and Aims Litter often decomposes faster in its environment of origin (at 'home') than in a foreign environment ('away'), which has become known as the home-field advantage (HFA). However, many studies have highlighted the conditional nature of the HFA, suggesting that current understanding of this phenomenon is not yet sufficient to generalize across systems. Methods The HFA hypothesis was tested for mono-specific and mixed-species litter using a tree-based experiment that manipulated the functional identity and diversity of the host tree community. Litter types of varying quality were transplanted between several host tree communities and decomposition rates were measured using litterbags. Since the decomposer community should respond to traits of the litter input and not their taxonomic identity, a traits-based index of litter-tree similarity was developed. Key Results Mono-specific litter exhibited HFA, but when the same litter was decomposed in mixture, this trend was not observed. Mixed-species litter decomposed on average no faster or slower than monoculture litter and exhibited both positive and negative species interactions. These non-additive interactions of decomposition rates in mixture were influenced by the degree of similarity between litter and tree traits. Both synergistic and antagonistic interactions decreased in magnitude with increasing litter-tree similarity such that mixture rates were predictable from monocultures. Conclusions The HFA occurred more strongly for mono-specific litter than for the litter types mixed together because interactions between species may have masked this effect. However, when expressed as a function of trait similarity between litters and tree communities, the HFA was not detected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)781-788
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • HFA
  • Home-field advantage
  • biodiversity
  • mixed-species litter
  • plant functional traits
  • tree litter decomposition

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