Decomposition rate studies

Decomposition is part of the nutrient cycle and its rate determines carbon balance of a particular ecosystem. Being an important part of ecological studies, decomposition rate is commonly one of the monitoring programs of field stations. The focus of our research was to estimate the decomposition rates in major ecosystems types in middle taiga zone of Western Siberia. For this purpose, the classical approach of litter bags was used, including standard litter type (tea) and native litters in natural as well as in experimental conditions (temperature raise).

0. The decomposition rate studies were initiated in 2010 in Mukhrino Field Station (and several years earlier in other locations in vicinity of Khanty-Mansiysk) by the Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry (Novosibirsk), these data are currently unavailable to us but could be found upon personal contact.

The decomposition rate experiments directly by MFS were started in 2016 as follows:

  1. The first series of experiments was initiated with TeaDecomposition initiative ( where standard green and roiboos teas were used to estimate decomposition rates in three vegetation types for 4 years.
  2. The series of native litter types (totally 11 types, for 4 years of extraction) was initiated in Autumn 2016 following the TeaDecomposition protocols, in the same vegetation types. This series was fulfilled by the same amount and types of litter in 2017 and 2018, to follow the inter-annual dynamics of decomposition. We intend to initiate these series for 5 years to cover inter-annual dynamics. Also, in 2018 we have buried an enlarge series of native litters of 3 plants for 10 extraction years, which would allow to observe decomposition dynamics for longer time compared to short (4 years) period. The native litters were: Pinus sibirica needles, Betula pubescens leaves, Populus tremula leaves (coniferous forest); Scheuchzeria palustre leaves, Eriophorum vaginatum leaves, Carex limosa leaves, Sphagnum balticum upper parts (bog hollow); Ledum palustre leaves, Chamaedaphne calyculata leaves, Rubus chamaemorus leaves, Sphagnum fuscum upper parts (treed bog).
  3. Another series of decomposition studies was initiated in 2016 in experimental conditions of temperature manipulation (raise for 1-2 degrees Celsius) in Open Top Chambers. The standard litter types (green, rooibos) were used with corresponding protocol of TeaDecomposition project. The litter bags were buried in two communities types, in OTC and control conditions, for 4 extraction years.
  4. The standard litters decomposition studies were expanded to cover different forest types. Another series of plots was initiated in 2017 in vicinities of Shapsha field station, in after-cut succession forest types. Three types of forests (fresh cut, secondary aspen and old growth coniferous) were chosen to located 3 plots with 2 replicas each, for 4 extraction years. Following the protocol of TeaDecomposition project.


  • Totally 2042 bags (native and standard litters) were installed by October 2018.
  • From them, 649 bags have been extracted and the data about mass loss are available in the database by October 2018.

The experiment design is shown in the table below and is available in xls file (download).

Litter type Ecosystem type N of extraction points Total N of bags in one extraction point
Standard (green, roiboos tea) Coniferous forest 4 (3 months, 1-3 years) 16 (4+4 x 2)
Secondary aspen forest 4 (3 months, 1-3 years) 8 (4+4)
Fresh logging site, 5 years after the logging 4 (3 months, 1-3 years) 8 (4+4)
Raised treed Sphagnum bog (ryam) 4 (3 months, 1-3 years) 8 (4+4)
Raised Sphagnum bog (lawn) 4 (3 months, 1-3 years) 8 (4+4) (+ 8 from OTC site/control/wet)
Native litter (birch, aspen leaves, pinus needles) Coniferous forest 10 (1-10 years) 8 (4+4)
Native litter (C. calyculata, L. palustre, R. chamaemorus, S. fuscum) Raised treed Sphagnum bog (ryam)  10 (1-10 years) 8 (4+4)
Native litter (Er. vaginatum, S. palustre, C. limosa, S. balticum) Raised Sphagnum bog (lawn)  10 (1-10 years) 8 (4+4)

The description of plots, coordinates and other conditions are provided in a detailed table (download).

The raw database itself could be downloaded and used upon contact and agreement (download, last update 16 December 2018).

The metadata of this project were uploaded in DEIMS database, where they could be retrieved and the link for download of the original data is provided.

The extracted litters are stored in zip-lock bags (dried) and available for further analyses and studies of chemical and organic content, litter quality, etc.

All extracted litters were photographed (general view of extracted bags and view of extracted from the bags litters under macro-lens) and these pictures were numbered according to sequential bags numbers and are stored as additional information to the database. Totally there are about 100 pictures which could be available upon request for additional information about extracted litter quality, roots and mycelium content, and others. See examples of such pictures here:

The list of PUBLISHED PAPERS are available under the link:

See also a photoalbum on Flickr showing pictures of plots and working moments.

And a short movie from the field, extracting 2 years decomposition bags in June 2018:



Last update: 16.12.2018