The approach involves a novel, scientific technique for measuring carbon decomposition at low cost with the use of tea bags (Keuskamp et al. 2013).
Two tea types (green and red, made by Lipton) with contrasting decomposability will serve as a model plant litter to elucidate microbial carbon cycling across ecosystems and climatic regions. The main goals are (1) to track the biomass and carbon loss during decomposition, and (2) analyze the microbial communities driving the decomposition process.
Wetlands are among the world’s most effective ecosystems for carbon sequestration by trapping and storing greenhouse gasses naturally. Maintenance or loss of wetland ecosystems will therefore have profound impact on the Earth’s climate.
What is missing, however, is standardized information on how carbon retention varies among wetland types – i.e. why (and how) do some wetlands sequester carbon better than others, and thereby helping offset the atmospheric CO2 pool?
Plant litter decomposition is the key process in the early sequestration/emission stage of the carbon cycle. At the foundation, microbial soil communities dictate the fate of the carbon, whether it be sequestered carbon or carbon emitted as carbon dioxide.
Tea bags have been deployed around the world in coastal wetlands (mangrove, tidal marshes, and seagrass), freshwater wetlands: bogs, fens, riverine, lacustrine) and aquatic ecosystems (seaweeds, streams, ponds).
Djukic et al. 2018. Early stage litter decomposition across biomes. Science of the total Environment 628: 1369-1394.
Keuskamp et al. 2013. Tea Bag Index: a novel approach to collect uniform decomposition data across ecosystems. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 4: 1070-1075.
Dr Stacey Trevathan-Tackett (s.trevathantackett AT deakin.edu.au)