, Volume 325, Issue 3, pp 173–182 | Cite as

Variable effects of air-drying on leaching losses from tree leaf litter

  • Barry R. Taylor
  • Felix Bärlocher


Leaching of soluble substances may be an important first step in leaf litter decomposition in small streams, but recent research has suggested that large leaching losses (up to 30% of initial mass in 48 h) may be an artifact created by using air-dried leaves in decomposition experiments. In laboratory experiments, we compared 3 d leaching losses from freshly fallen and air-dried senescent leaves of 27 tree species from different regions across Canada. Air-dried leaves from all species leached measurable amounts of original mass (3.6–32.8% dry mass), but leaching losses from fresh leaves (0–35%) were detectable in all but two species. Air-drying increased leaching losses in many species, but in others it reduced leaching losses or had no measurable effect. Results for leaves of the same species collected in different regions or in different years were generally similar, but species within the same genus often behaved very differently. Neither moisture content (fresh or air-dried), leaf thickness, nor cuticle thickness proved of any value as predictors of leaching losses or the effect of air-drying. The propensity of autumn-fallen leaves to leach, whether fresh or air-dried, appears to be a property of the individual tree species.

Key words

decomposition leaf litter leaching drying streams 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barry R. Taylor
    • 1
  • Felix Bärlocher
    • 2
  1. 1.Kananaskis Field StationsUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Biology DepartmentMount Allison UniversitySackvilleCanada

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