The influence of the invasive shrub, Lonicera maackii, on leaf decomposition and microbial community dynamics

Mary A. Arthur, Sarah R. Bray, Christina R. Kuchle, Ryan W. McEwan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) is an exotic invasive shrub that is rapidly expanding into forests of eastern North America. This species forms a dense forest understory, alters tree regeneration, negatively affects herb-layer biodiversity, and alters ecosystem function. In a second-growth forest in central Kentucky, we examined the timing and production of leaf litter and compared litter chemistry, decay rates, and microbial community colonization of Amur honeysuckle to that of two native trees, white ash (Fraxinus americana) and hickory (Carya spp.). The distribution of Amur honeysuckle was clumped, allowing us to compare differences in decomposition under and away from Amur honeysuckle shrubs. Amur honeysuckle leaf litter had significantly higher nitrogen, lower C:N, and lower lignin than the other species, and decomposition rates were greater than 5× faster. Despite the much higher rate of Amur honeysuckle decomposition compared with the native species (p < 0. 0001), decomposition of all species was significantly slower (p = 0. 0489) in sites located under Amur honeysuckle shrubs. Nitrogen concentration increased through time in decomposing Amur honeysuckle litter; however, total mass of N rapidly declined. We found the initial microbial community on leaf litter of Amur honeysuckle was distinct from two native species and although all microbial communities changed through time, the microbial community of Amur honeysuckle remained distinct from native communities. In summary, a distinct microbial community that may originate on Amur honeysuckle leaves prior to senescence could explain the rapid decay rates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1571-1582
Number of pages12
JournalPlant Ecology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments Milinda Hamilton and Beth Blankenship provided assistance in sample processing and data analysis, respectively. Jim Nelson performed GC analysis of PLFAs. Collin Murphy and Rebecca Pasco provided lab assistance in the extraction of PLFAs. The University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture provided funding to support this research. A Kenan Jones Grant from Transylvania University supported SRB. This study (12-09-066) is connected with a project of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station.


  • Amur honeysuckle
  • C:N
  • Eastern deciduous forest
  • Invasive species
  • Litter decomposition
  • Microbial community

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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