30 Jan 2023
 | 30 Jan 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Information content in time series of litter decomposition studies and the transit time of litter in aridlands

Agustín Sarquis and Carlos A. Sierra

Abstract. Plant litter decomposition stands at the intersection between carbon (C) loss and sequestration in terrestrial ecosystems. Organic matter during this process experiences chemical and physical transformations that affect decomposition rates of distinct components with different transformation fates. However, most decomposition studies only fit one-pool models that consider organic matter in litter as a single homogenous pool and do not incorporate the dynamics of litter transformations and transfers in their framework. To this extent, compartmental dynamical systems are sets of differential equations that can be used to represent both the heterogeneity in decomposition rates of organic matter, and the transformations it can undergo. Further, a metric that can be used to compare models with different structures is the transit time, that is, the mean age of particles when they are released from a compartmental system. In this study, we first asked what model structures are more appropriate to represent decomposition from a publicly available database of decomposition studies in aridlands: aridec. For this purpose, we fit one- and two-pool decomposition models with parallel and series structures and used model averaging as a multi-model inference approach. We then asked what the potential ranges of the median transit times of C in aridlands are and what are their relationships with environmental and chemical variables. Hence, we calculated transit time for those models and explored patterns in the data with respect to mean annual temperature and precipitation, solar radiation, the Global Aridity Index, and one litter chemistry trait, the initial lignin content. Median transit time was 1.9 years for the one- and two-pool model with parallel structure, and five years for the two-pool series model. The information in our datasets supported all three models in a relatively similar way, thus our decision to use a multi-model inference approach. After model-averaging, median transit time had values of around three years for all datasets. Exploring patterns of transit time in relation to environmental variables yielded weak correlation coefficients, except for mean annual temperature, which was moderate and negative. Overall, our analysis suggests that the information content in litter decomposition studies often holds little information on the heterogeneity of litter and its transformation rate. Nevertheless, the multi-model inference framework proposed here can help to reconcile theoretical expectations with the information content from field studies and can further help to design field experiments that better represent the complexity of the litter decomposition process.

Agustín Sarquis and Carlos A. Sierra

Status: open (until 13 Apr 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-90', Anonymous Referee #1, 20 Feb 2023 reply

Agustín Sarquis and Carlos A. Sierra

Data sets

Supplementary Material for Sarquis & Sierra 2023 v1.0.0 Sarquis, Agustín, Sierra, Carlos A.

Agustín Sarquis and Carlos A. Sierra


Total article views: 208 (including HTML, PDF, and XML)
HTML PDF XML Total BibTeX EndNote
157 41 10 208 3 4
  • HTML: 157
  • PDF: 41
  • XML: 10
  • Total: 208
  • BibTeX: 3
  • EndNote: 4
Views and downloads (calculated since 30 Jan 2023)
Cumulative views and downloads (calculated since 30 Jan 2023)

Viewed (geographical distribution)

Total article views: 205 (including HTML, PDF, and XML) Thereof 205 with geography defined and 0 with unknown origin.
Country # Views %
  • 1
Latest update: 23 Mar 2023
Short summary
Although plant litter is chemically and physically heterogeneous, and undergoes multiple transformations, models that represent litter dynamics often ignore this complexity. We used a multi-model inference framework to include information content in litter decomposition datasets, and studied the time it takes to decompose litter as measured by the transit time. In arid lands, the median transit time of litter is about three years and had a negative correlation with mean annual temperature.