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PLoS One. 2013 Jun 20;8(6):e68858. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068858. Print 2013.

Direct and indirect effects of UV-B exposure on litter decomposition: a meta-analysis.

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The Nurturing Station for the State Key Laboratory of Subtropical Silviculture and Zhejiang Provincial Key Laboratory of Carbon Cycling and Carbon Sequestration in Forest Ecosystems, Zhejiang A & F University, Lin'an, China.


Ultraviolet-B (UV-B) exposure in the course of litter decomposition may have a direct effect on decomposition rates via changing states of photodegradation or decomposer constitution in litter while UV-B exposure during growth periods may alter chemical compositions and physical properties of plants. Consequently, these changes will indirectly affect subsequent litter decomposition processes in soil. Although studies are available on both the positive and negative effects (including no observable effects) of UV-B exposure on litter decomposition, a comprehensive analysis leading to an adequate understanding remains unresolved. Using data from 93 studies across six biomes, this introductory meta-analysis found that elevated UV-B directly increased litter decomposition rates by 7% and indirectly by 12% while attenuated UV-B directly decreased litter decomposition rates by 23% and indirectly increased litter decomposition rates by 7%. However, neither positive nor negative effects were statistically significant. Woody plant litter decomposition seemed more sensitive to UV-B than herbaceous plant litter except under conditions of indirect effects of elevated UV-B. Furthermore, levels of UV-B intensity significantly affected litter decomposition response to UV-B (P<0.05). UV-B effects on litter decomposition were to a large degree compounded by climatic factors (e.g., MAP and MAT) (P<0.05) and litter chemistry (e.g., lignin content) (P<0.01). Results suggest these factors likely have a bearing on masking the important role of UV-B on litter decomposition. No significant differences in UV-B effects on litter decomposition were found between study types (field experiment vs. laboratory incubation), litter forms (leaf vs. needle), and decay duration. Indirect effects of elevated UV-B on litter decomposition significantly increased with decay duration (P<0.001). Additionally, relatively small changes in UV-B exposure intensity (30%) had significant direct effects on litter decomposition (P<0.05). The intent of this meta-analysis was to improve our understanding of the overall effects of UV-B on litter decomposition.

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