Polyphenol content as key-indicator of plant litter quality and palatability for macro-decomposers

Julia Seeber, Alexander Rief

The interactions between soil animals and microbes are an essential aspect in decomposition and soil formation processes in the alpine region. An important prerequisite for studies dealing with these interactions are the polyphenol contents of various alpine plant species and litter of different stages, because they influence the palatability of the litter for decomposer species such as earthworms and millipedes as well as microbes.

In the proposed study we want to analyse the polyphenol contents of fresh plant material and litter of different stages (overwintered litter and one-year old litter) of plant species abundant on alpine areas. We will use colorimetric chemical assays to measure total phenolics (Folin-Ciocalteau assay) and proanthocyanidins aka condensed tannins (butanol-HCl hydrolysis). These two assays are well accepted as the two most frequently used polyphenol measurements.

The results help us get better insights in the decomposition dynamics and soil formation processes on managed and abandoned alpine pastureland. The project is closely connected to the project “Trophic relations of decomposers on abandoned alpine pastureland”, which dealt with the interactions between macro-decomposers and microbes on alpine pastureland.

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