Ecological and Environmental Change Research Group


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MSc project

Plant litter decomposition

Vigdis Vandvik, Kari Klanderud (NMBU, Ås)


Determining the rate and quality of decomposition of alpine-plant community litter and assessing likely impacts of future climate change on the process

Litter decomposition is a critical process in ecosystem functioning as it regulates nutrient cycles and nutrient availability in the environment. The rate of litter decomposition in natural systems is often influenced by a number of factors including moisture, temperature, solar radiation, and litter quality. Thus changes in climatic conditions, and particularly temperature and precipitation, are likely to impact on litter decomposition processes both directly by affecting micro-climates and indirectly by affecting litter quality via changes in vegetation composition and density.

The proposed project aims to determine the quality and rate of decomposition for litter of alpine plant communities and assess the possible impacts of future climate change scenarios on these processes.

The project is part of a bigger study (SeedClim) that investigates plant responses to climate change in alpine habitats using 12 experimental sites on a climate grid where four levels of annual precipitation (600, 1200, 2000, and 2700 mm) are combined with three levels of mean summer temperature (7.5, 9.5, and 11.5°C), keeping other habitat variables relatively constant. Data are currently available on plant composition and density, plant traits, soil microbial communities, and climate variables at each site.

The proposed project involves developing and setting up a large-scale field experiment at the 12 SeedClim experimental sites, using a litter bag experiment to determine density, quality and rate of decomposition of plant litter and release of N and P in the environment. These results will be linked to an existing dataset to assess factors that may control litter decomposition processes in alpine grasslands. The student will also be involved in the survey of plant composition for the up-coming field season in Norway, and the development and setting up of a parallel study in China.

Klimaeffekter på fjellets økosystemer

  • Nedbrytning av dødt organisk materiale er en viktig prosess som regulerer næringstilgang og stofftransport gjennom økosystemene.
  • Hvordan påvirker klima og klimaendringer nedbrytningen?
  • Hva er vil dette ha å si for karbonregnskapet?

Metoder: felteksperiment i SeedClim-gridet.