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Temporal dynamics of ultraviolet radiation impacts on litter decomposition in a semi-arid ecosystem

Wang, Jing, Yang, Sen, Zhang, Beibei, Liu, Weixing, Deng, Meifeng, Chen, Shiping, Liu, Lingli
Plant and soil 2017 v.419 no.1-2 pp. 71-81
Kengia squarrosa, Stipa krylovii, arid lands, biodegradability, biodegradation, dissolved organic carbon, dry environmental conditions, ecosystems, grasslands, microorganisms, photolysis, population size, soil, temporal variation, ultraviolet radiation
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: The emerging consensus posits that ultraviolet (UV) radiation accelerates litter decomposition in xeric environments mainly by preconditioning litter for subsequent microbial decomposition. However, how UV radiation affects the interactions among litter chemistry, microbes, and eventually litter mass during different decomposition stages is still poorly understood. METHODS: Here, we conducted a 29-month in situ decomposition experiment with litter exposed to ambient and reduced UV in a semi-arid grassland. RESULTS: The decomposition rate for Cleistogenes squarrosa and Stipa krylovii under ambient UV was 82 and 111% greater than that under reduced UV, respectively. UV’s positive effect showed three-stage temporal dynamics. During the early stage, UV had no impact on either litter chemistry or mass loss. During the intermediate stage, UV decreased litter carbon concentration and increased dissolved organic carbon concentration, but still had no effect on litter mass. During the late stage, UV exposure increased microbial population size in the surface soil and significantly increased litter mass loss. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, our study suggested that UV exposure accelerated litter decomposition first by improving litter biodegradability during the intermediate stage and then by enhancing microbial decomposition during the late stage. More long-term photodegradation experiments are needed to explore the biotic and abiotic interactions during different decomposition stages.