Decomposition of plant litter is a key process for transfer of carbon and nutrients in ecosystems. Carbon contained in decaying biomass is released to the atmosphere as respired CO2, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. To our knowledge, there have been no studies on litter decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems in the Arabian peninsula. Here we used commercial teabags (green tea, rooibos tea) as standard substrates to study decomposition rates across contrasting ecosystems in Qatar.

Teabags were buried under and beside Acacia tortilis trees, in depressions with abundant grass vegetation, in saltmarsh without and with vegetation, under Zygophyllum qatarense in drylands, in natural mangrove and in planted mangrove. There were significant site effects across ecosystems on decomposition rate (k), litter stabilisation factor (S), final weight of green tea and final weight of rooibos tea. Mangrove and depressions with grassland had the smallest amounts of remaining green and rooibos tea after the incubation period (69–82 days), while teabags buried under A. tortilis and in saltmarsh without vegetation had the largest amounts. Thus decomposition rates differ among ecosystems in the desert environment. Further multi-year and site studies are needed to identify factors that influence decomposition rates across sites in extreme environments.

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