Reading tea leaves worldwide: Decoupled drivers of initial litter decomposition mass-loss rate and stabilization

Judith M. Sarneel, Mariet M. Hefting, Taru Sandén, Johan van den Hoogen, Devin Routh, Bhupendra S. Adhikari, Juha M. Alatalo, Alla Aleksanyan, Inge H.J. Althuizen, Mohammed H.S.A. Alsafran, Jeff W. Atkins, Laurent Augusto, Mika Aurela, Aleksej V. Azarov, Isabel C. Barrio, Claus Beier, María D. Bejarano, Sue E. Benham, Björn Berg, Nadezhda V. BezlerKatrín Björnsdóttir, Martin A. Bolinder, Michele Carbognani, Roberto Cazzolla Gatti, Stefano Chelli, Maxim V. Chistotin, Casper T. Christiansen, Pascal Courtois, Thomas W. Crowther, Michele S. Dechoum, Ika Djukic, Sarah Duddigan, Louise M. Egerton-Warburton, Nicolas Fanin, Maria Fantappiè, Silvano Fares, Geraldo W. Fernandes, Nina V. Filippova, Andreas Fliessbach, David Fuentes, Roberto Godoy, Thomas Grünwald, Gema Guzmán, Joseph E. Hawes, Yue He, Jean Marc Hero, Laura L. Hess, Katja Hogendoorn, Toke T. Høye, Wilma W.P. Jans, Ingibjörg S. Jónsdóttir, Sabina Keller, Sebastian Kepfer-Rojas, Natalya N. Kuz'menko, Klaus S. Larsen, Hjalmar Laudon, Jonas J. Lembrechts, Junhui Li, Jean Marc Limousin, Sergey M. Lukin, Renato Marques, César Marín, Marshall D. McDaniel, Qi Meek, Genrietta E. Merzlaya, Anders Michelsen, Leonardo Montagnani, Peter Mueller, Rajasekaran Murugan, Isla H. Myers-Smith, Stefanie Nolte, Raúl Ochoa-Hueso, Bernard N. Okafor, Vladimir V. Okorkov, Vladimir G. Onipchenko, María C. Orozco, Tina Parkhurst, Carlos A. Peres, Matteo Petit Bon, Alessandro Petraglia, Martin Pingel, Corinna Rebmann, Brett R. Scheffers, Inger Schmidt, Mary C. Scholes, Efrat Sheffer, Lyudmila K. Shevtsova, Stuart W. Smith, Adriano Sofo, Pablo R. Stevenson, Barbora Strouhalová, Anders Sundsdal, Rafael B. Sühs, Gebretsadik Tamene, Haydn J.D. Thomas, Duygu Tolunay, Marcello Tomaselli, Simon Tresch, Dominique L. Tucker, Michael D. Ulyshen, Alejandro Valdecantos, Vigdis Vandvik, Elena I. Vanguelova, Kris Verheyen, Xuhui Wang, Laura Yahdjian, Xaris S. Yumashev, Joost A. Keuskamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The breakdown of plant material fuels soil functioning and biodiversity. Currently, process understanding of global decomposition patterns and the drivers of such patterns are hampered by the lack of coherent large-scale datasets. We buried 36,000 individual litterbags (tea bags) worldwide and found an overall negative correlation between initial mass-loss rates and stabilization factors of plant-derived carbon, using the Tea Bag Index (TBI). The stabilization factor quantifies the degree to which easy-to-degrade components accumulate during early-stage decomposition (e.g. by environmental limitations). However, agriculture and an interaction between moisture and temperature led to a decoupling between initial mass-loss rates and stabilization, notably in colder locations. Using TBI improved mass-loss estimates of natural litter compared to models that ignored stabilization. Ignoring the transformation of dead plant material to more recalcitrant substances during early-stage decomposition, and the environmental control of this transformation, could overestimate carbon losses during early decomposition in carbon cycle models.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)e14415
JournalEcology Letters
Volume27
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 May 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors. Ecology Letters published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Keywords

  • citizen science
  • environmental drivers
  • global change
  • litter decomposition
  • mass loss
  • soil organic matter formation
  • stabilization
  • tea bag index

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