Climate and litter quality differently modulate the effects of soil fauna on litter decomposition across biomes

Ecol Lett. 2013 Aug;16(8):1045-53. doi: 10.1111/ele.12137. Epub 2013 Jun 13.


Climate and litter quality have been identified as major drivers of litter decomposition at large spatial scales. However, the role played by soil fauna remains largely unknown, despite its importance for litter fragmentation and microbial activity. We synthesised litterbag studies to quantify the effect sizes of soil fauna on litter decomposition rates at the global and biome scales, and to assess how climate, litter quality and soil fauna interact to determine such rates. Soil fauna consistently enhanced litter decomposition at both global and biome scales (average increment ~ 37%). [corrected]. However, climate and litter quality differently modulated the effects of soil fauna on decomposition rates between biomes, from climate-driven biomes to those where climate effects were mediated by changes in litter quality. Our results advocate for the inclusion of biome-specific soil fauna effects on litter decomposition as a mean to reduce the unexplained variation in large-scale decomposition models.

Keywords: Carbon dynamics; climate; litter C : N ratio; litter decomposition; litter quality; meta-analysis; soil fauna.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biota*
  • Climate*
  • Ecosystem
  • Invertebrates / physiology*
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism*
  • Soil / chemistry*


  • Soil