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