The effects of elevated UV-B (280–315 nm) radiation on the long-term decomposition of Quercus robur leaf litter were assessed at an outdoor facility in the UK by exposing saplings to elevated UV-B radiation (corresponding to a 30% increase above the ambient level of erythemally weighted UV-B, equivalent to that resulting from a c. 18% reduction in ozone column) under arrays of cellulose diacetate-filtered fluorescent UV-B lamps that also produced UV-A radiation (315–400 nm). Saplings were also exposed to elevated UV-A radiation alone under arrays of polyester-filtered fluorescent lamps and to ambient solar radiation under arrays of nonenergized lamps. After 8 months of irradiation, abscised leaves were placed into litter bags and allowed to decompose in the litter layer of a mixed deciduous woodland for 4.08 years. The dry weight loss of leaf litter from saplings irradiated with elevated UV-B and UV-A radiation during growth was 17% greater than that of leaf litter irradiated with elevated UV-A radiation alone. Annual fractional weight loss of litter (k), and the estimated time taken for 95% of material to decay (3/k) were respectively increased and decreased by 27% for leaf litter exposed during growth to elevated UV-B and UV-A radiation, relative to that exposed to UV-A alone. The present data corroborate those from a previous study indicating that UV-B radiation applied during growth accelerates the subsequent decomposition of Q. robur leaf litter in soil, but indicate that this effect persists for over four years after abscission.
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