Photodegradation contributes to forest leaf litter decomposition

Qing-Wei Wang and Marta Pieriste inspecting leaf-litter decomposition filters in the understorey site of a Japanese beech forest

The contribution of photodegradation to litter decomposition in a temperate forest gap and understorey

In a study recently published in New Phytologist with our collaborator Qing-Wei Wang, we found that the spectral composition of light in a forest gap and understorey through the year affected the rate of photodegradation of senescent leaf litter material across a variety of native plant species. This finding that photodegradation plays an important role in forest litter decomposition has potentially far-reaching consequences, and could partially explain the hole in the carbon budget in this ecosystem.

Wang QW, Pieristè M, Kenta T, Liu C, Robson TM, Kurokawa H (2020) Photodegradation enhances litter decomposition modulated with canopy openness in a temperate forest. New Phytologist. NPH17022 https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.17022

Enhanced decomposition can occur through direct photochemical mineralisation, but in temperate forests effects of increased temperature and the availability of substrates for microbial decompositions can be even more important. These actions of photofacilitation are highly wavelength dependent and the subtilties of these responses can only be identified through very large scale experimental manipulations of sunlight, as was done in this ambitious experiment.

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