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Spectral Composition of Sunlight Affects the Microbial Functional Structure of Beech Leaf Litter During the Initial Phase of Decomposition

Abstract : Aims This study tests whether different spectral regions of sunlight affect the microbial decomposer assemblage in surface leaf litter in a beech understorey over the first 6 months following leaf senescence. Methods We performed a litterbag experiment employing filters attenuating combinations of UV-B, UV-A, blue, and green light as well as the whole spectrum of sunlight. We measured changes in microbial biomass and community structure, litter mass loss and litter chemistry during the first 6 months of decomposition. Results Fungal and total microbial biomass were highest in the treatment excluding UV radiation, blue and green light. Exclusion of UV-B radiation decreased the fungal:bacterial biomass ratio and litter nitrogen content. Bacterial biomass was lower in the dark treatment compared to treatments receiving at least part of the solar spectrum. Our filter treatments affected microbial functional structure from the beginning of the experiment, whereas mass loss was only significantly affected after 6 months of decomposition and no effect was found on litter carbon content. Conclusions This study proves that sunlight, in a spectrally dependent manner, affects both microbial functional structure and biomass in temperate deciduous forests early in the decomposition process, with bacteria tending to dominate in sunlight and fungi in dark conditions. We found sunlight to be important in the decomposition in temperate forest understoreys despite the low irradiance characterizing these environments. However, long-term studies are required to estimate the relative contribution of sunlight among factors affecting the eventual incorporation of decomposing leaf litter into forest soils.
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https://hal.inrae.fr/hal-02930085
Contributor : Christopher Lallemant <>
Submitted on : Friday, September 4, 2020 - 10:30:23 AM
Last modification on : Monday, September 13, 2021 - 1:55:10 PM

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Marta Pieristè, Estelle Forey, Anissa Lounès-Hadj Sahraoui, Hacène Meglouli, Frédéric Laruelle, et al.. Spectral Composition of Sunlight Affects the Microbial Functional Structure of Beech Leaf Litter During the Initial Phase of Decomposition. Plant and Soil, Springer Verlag, 2020, 451 (1-2), pp.515-530. ⟨10.1007/s11104-020-04557-6⟩. ⟨hal-02930085⟩

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