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We examined the influence of elevated UV-B radiation on the extractability of carbohydrates from leaf litter of Quercus robur. Saplings were exposed to a 30% elevation above the ambient level of erythemally weighted UV-B (280–315 nm) radiation for eight months at an outdoor facility. UV-B radiation was applied under arrays of fluorescent lamps filtered with cellulose diacetate, which transmitted both UV-B and UV-A (315–400 nm) radiation. Saplings were also exposed to elevated UV-A radiation under arrays of polyester-filtered lamps and to ambient radiation under arrays of non-energised lamps. Abscised leaves were collected, ground and sequentially treated with seven solvents in order to fractionate extractable carbohydrates based on the way in which they are held in the cell wall. Elevated UV-B radiation reduced the extractability of carbohydrates from cell walls of Q. robur. Sodium phosphate buffer at pH 7 extracted 10% less total carbohydrate from leaf material exposed during growth to elevated UV-B radiation under cellulose diacetate-filtered lamps than from leaf material grown under polyester-filtered and non-energised lamps. The cumulative amount of carbohydrate released by sequential extraction with phosphate buffer, CDTA, urea and sodium carbonate was between 5.1% and 7.8% lower from leaf material grown under cellulose diacetate-filtered lamps relative to that from leaves grown under non-energised lamps. Abscised leaves were also digested with Driselase, an enzyme mixture extracted from a basidiomycete fungus. No effects of elevated UV radiation were recorded on the amount of carbohydrate released by Driselase digestion. Regression analyses, using data from a previous field decomposition study, suggested that reduced availability of carbohydrates enhanced the colonisation of Q. robur litter by basidiomycete fungi, which then accelerated the decomposition rate of the litter in soil. We recommend that future studies into the effects of UV-B radiation on plant litter decomposition measure not only the concentrations of chemical constituents of litter, but also determine the availability of litter carbon sources to soil microbes, using methods similar to those used here.