Canopy Cover Effects on the Rate of Leaf-Litter Decomposition


Canopy Cover Effects on the Rate of Leaf-Litter Decomposition



Jahmia A. Bridges-Butler, Eva S. Hill


This poster reflects research conducted as part of a course project designed to give students experience in the research process. Course: BIO 459L



Canopy Cover Effects on the Rate of Leaf-Litter DecompositionBy: Jahmia Bridges-Butler & Eva HillDecomposition is a vital ecosystem process that is a crucial part of nutrient cycling, and, if altered, can cause a change in the environmental productivity of an ecosystem. This process plays an important role in nutrient cycling by breaking down plant biomass and facilitating new plant growth. We tested the hypothesis that canopy cover would affect the rate of decomposition in forested and open areas: An open canopy cover will lead to decreased rates of decomposition due to being exposed to natural elements that can slow down decomposition. However, the open canopy area would be expected to have more arthropods present and participating in the decomposition.To determine decomposition rates, we conducted a litter-bag experiment in the Environmental Research Area at the University of Dayton. We created 10 sets of 4 bags each, each filled with 5 g of green Ginkgo leaves. We picked up one bag from each set at different points in time to determine how much litter mass was lost over time. Half of the litter bags were put in a closed canopy site and the other half in an open canopy site. We then calculated the rate of decomposition by comparing the starting litter mass to the end litter mass. We also determined what arthropods were present in the last two time points by identifying the arthropods to order that we extracted from each litterbag using a Berlese funnel.We expect to find an overall lower rate of decomposition in the litter bags placed in the open canopy site, compared to the rate of bags in the closed canopy site. More specifically, we expect to find a higher k value with the litter bags in the closed canopy area than those placed in the open canopy. We expect these results due to the open canopy bags being exposed to the elements during the winter months, which would include precipitation like rain and snow, that would cause a decrease in decomposition.These results could be important for gaining more knowledge and insight into what kind of things can affect decomposition rates in ecosystems. We can learn about how anthropogenic factors, like deforestation, can alter the rate of decomposition for vegetation in the area, which in turn affects the carbon cycle.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Course Project

Primary Advisor

Chelse M. Prather

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium project, College of Arts and Sciences

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Climate Action

Canopy Cover Effects on the Rate of Leaf-Litter Decomposition