The time taken for leaf decomposition may be the key to comprehend how temperature affects ecosystems, say the ecologists from Kansas State University.
They used the data of leaf litter in streams and rivers from 1,025 publications for their study. They did so because plant materials constitute a big part of the world's carbon, and rivers and streams aid in transporting plant material around the globe; and thus leaf litter decomposition in streams (rather than in soil) can contribute a lot to atmospheric carbon.
So, comprehending the relationships among leaf decomposition, running water and temperature can aid ecologists in better predicting the way carbon cycle will respond to future climate changes.
They found that the average rates of leaf litter decomposition increase with increase in temperature, however this increase is less than half of what was expected. The research concludes that biological communities, to some extent, will adapt themselves to environmental change
"Either the organisms will adapt to the changing temperature or different organisms that are effective at warmer temperatures will take their place” said Walter Dodds, one of the researchers.
The findings of this research have been published in Global Change Biology.