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Forests 2016, 7(8), 167; doi:10.3390/f7080167

Towards Harmonizing Leaf Litter Decomposition Studies Using Standard Tea Bags—A Field Study and Model Application

1
Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Forest Resources and Management, Birmensdorf CH-8903, Switzerland
2
Finnish Environment Institute, Ecosystem Processes, Helsinki FI-00251, Finland
3
Ecosystem Research & Environmental Information Management, Environment Agency Austria, Vienna A-1090, Austria
These authors contributed equally to this work.
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Björn Berg
Received: 30 May 2016 / Revised: 27 July 2016 / Accepted: 28 July 2016 / Published: 1 August 2016
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Abstract

Decomposition of plant litter is a key process for the transfer of carbon and nutrients in ecosystems. Carbon contained in the decaying biomass is released to the atmosphere as respired CO2, and may contribute to global warming. Litterbag studies have been used to improve our knowledge of the drivers of litter decomposition, but they lack comparability because litter quality is plant species-specific. The use of commercial tea bags as a standard substrate was suggested in order to harmonize studies, where green tea and rooibos represent more labile and more recalcitrant C compounds as surrogates of local litter. Here we examine the potential of the use of standardized material for improving our understanding of litter decomposition across climate regions, and to further develop pertinent models. We measured the decomposition of incubated local and standard litters over two years along an elevation gradient in the Austrian Limestone Alps. The similar response to changes in temperature and precipitation of the pairs of local and standard litter—i.e., Fagus sylvatica and green tea, and Pinus nigra and rooibos tea, respectively—suggests the suitability of the standard litters for further examining the role of environmental drivers of decomposition. Harmonized data obtained from standardized litter experiments would provide a key prerequisite for further developing simulation models for the estimation of the C balance of ecosystem litter pools. View Full-Text
Keywords: carbon; climosequence; comparability; litterbags; litter decomposition; modeling; Yasso15; verification; validation carbon; climosequence; comparability; litterbags; litter decomposition; modeling; Yasso15; verification; validation
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Didion, M.; Repo, A.; Liski, J.; Forsius, M.; Bierbaumer, M.; Djukic, I. Towards Harmonizing Leaf Litter Decomposition Studies Using Standard Tea Bags—A Field Study and Model Application. Forests 2016, 7, 167.

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