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Experimental evidence for the interacting effects of forest edge, moisture and soil macrofauna on leaf litter decomposition

This paper investigates the effects of forest fragmentation, soil moisture, soil macrofauna and litter quality on the rate of leaf litter decomposition, an important ecosystem process. The authors test the hypothesis that decomposition will be slower at the edge of a forest compared with the interior, due to the lower soil moisture at the forest's edge.
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Copyright © Elsevier B.V.

Riutta, T., Slade, EM., Bebber, DP., Taylor, ME., Malhi, Y., Riordan, P., Macdonald, DW. and Morecroft, MD. (2012). Experimental evidence for the interacting effects of forest edge, moisture and soil macrofauna on leaf litter. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 49, 124-131.

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Forest ecosystems have been widely fragmented by human land use. Fragmentation induces significant microclimatic and biological differences at the forest edge relative to the forest interior. Increased exposure to solar radiation and wind at forest edges reduces soil moisture, which in turn affects leaf litter decomposition. In this paper the authors investigated the effect of forest fragmentation, soil moisture, soil macrofauna and litter quality on leaf litter decomposition to test the hypothesis that decomposition will be slower at a forest edge relative to the interior and that this effect is driven by lower soil moisture at the forest edge.

Working in experimental plots at Wytham Woods the authors' study demonstrates the effect of forest fragmentation on an important ecosystem process, providing new insights into the interacting effects of moisture conditions, litter quality, forest edge and soil macrofauna.