Modelling decomposition of standard plant material along an altitudinal gradient: A re-analysis of data of Coûteaux et al. (2002)

W.G. Braakhekke, A.M.G. de Bruijn

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5 Citations (Scopus)


We explored an alternative method to analyse data of Cou¿teaux et al. [2002, Soil Biology and Biochemistry 34, 69-78] on the decomposition of a standard organic material in six soils along an altitudinal gradient in the Venezuelan Andes (65-3968 m a.s.l.). Cou¿teaux et al., fitted separate two-component decomposition models to data of the individual sites, allowing the initial size of the labile and the resistant component to differ between sites. This procedure led them to conclude that the initial size of the resistant component and its decomposition rate depend on temperature while decomposition rate of the labile component does not, which seems biologically unlikely and at variance with literature. As an alternative we fitted a single two-component model to the whole data set, using identical initial component sizes for all sites. We found no statistical ground for using variable initial component sizes. It appeared that the data does not allow a conclusion on the effect of temperature on the decomposition of the labile component. We also investigated alternatives for the values of Q10 and Topt that were used by Cou¿teaux et al., and found that temperature explains a larger part of the differences in decomposition rate among sites when using a Q10 value of 3.75 instead of 2.2 and a Topt value of 27 °C instead of 25 °C. We discuss the arguments used in model selection and the consequences for predictions of long-term accumulation of soil carbon. Our analysis suggests an even stronger positive feedback between global warming and soil carbon emission than the analysis by Cou¿teaux et al
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-105
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • organic-matter decomposition
  • temperature-dependence
  • soil
  • sensitivity
  • moisture
  • transect
  • quality
  • storage

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