Saturday, 15 July 2006

Decomposition of leaf litter mixtures in volcanic chronosequences on Mount Etna, Sicily.

Laura-Lee Shillam, University of Stirling, School of biological and environmental sciences, Stirling, United Kingdom

Volcanic eruptions provide new land surfaces for soil formation and colonisation, and chronosequences produced by successive eruptions provide opportunities to investigate succession by soil organisms.

The lava flows of Europe's most active volcano, Mount Etna, have been reliably mapped for centuries and ancient eruptive paths dated. Four sites ranging in age and predominant vegetation cover were chosen to investigate whether leaf litter decay varies at different successional stages and whether mixed litter species decompose at a different rate than their single species counterparts.

Mass loss data showed the rate of decomposition at the sites was similar despite several thousand years age difference. Litter mixtures showed no real variation from single litter species over a range of parameters and sites after 254 days in situ.

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