Role of arthropod communities in bioenergy crop litter decomposition

Arthur R. Zangerl, Saber Miresmailli, Paul Nabity, Allen Lawrance, Alan Yanahan, Corey A. Mitchell, Kristina J. Anderson-Teixeira, Mark B. David, May R. Berenbaum, Evan H. Delucia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The extensive land use conversion expected to occur to meet demands for bioenergy feedstock production will likely have widespread impacts on agroecosystem biodiversity and ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration. Although arthropod detritivores are known to contribute to litter decomposition and thus energy flow and nutrient cycling in many plant communities, their importance in bioenergy feedstock communities has not yet been assessed. We undertook an experimental study quantifying rates of litter mass loss and nutrient cycling in the presence and absence of these organisms in three bioenergy feedstock crops-miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), and a planted prairie community. Overall arthropod abundance and litter decomposition rates were similar in all three communities. Despite effective reduction of arthropods in experimental plots via insecticide application, litter decomposition rates, inorganic nitrogen leaching, and carbon-nitrogen ratios did not differ significantly between control (with arthropods) and treatment (without arthropods) plots in any of the three community types. Our findings suggest that changes in arthropod faunal composition associated with widespread adoption of bioenergy feedstock crops may not be associated with profoundly altered arthropod-mediated litter decomposition and nutrient release.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)671-678
Number of pages8
JournalInsect Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Biodiversity
  • Bioenergy
  • Decomposition
  • Detritivore
  • Land use change
  • Prairie

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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