, Volume 107, Issue 1, pp 131–140 | Cite as

Changes in microbial biomass, respiration and nutrient status of beech (Fagus sylvatica) leaf litter processed by millipedes (Glomeris marginata)

  • Mark Maraun
  • Stefan Scheu
Community Ecology


The effect of processing of beech leaf litter (Fagus sylvatica L.) of different ages by the diplopodGlomeris marginata (Villers) on status and turnover of microorganisms was investigated in the laboratory. Microbial biomass, basal respiration and metabolic quotient of litter-material from three different beechwood sites of a basalt hill forming a gradient from basalt (upper part of the hill) to limestone (lower part of the hill) were determined each season (February, May, August and November). The same microbial parameters were also measured after these litter materials had been processed byG. marginata (faecal pellets of an average age of 4 days). Short-term changes in microbial biomass and respiration in leaf material and faecal pellets from February and August were investigated after 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 40 days of incubation. The ergosterol content of August samples was determined. Processing of beech leaf litter byG. marginata increased microbial biomass in February and May but reduced microbial biomass in August and November. It was concluded that processing of litter materials in February and May increased accessibility of carbon resources to microorganisms by fragmentation. In contrast, in litter materials from August and November carbon resources were depleted and fragmentation by diplopods did not increase availability of carbon resources. Addition of carbon (glucose) and nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) to litter and faecal pellets indicated that processing of beech litter reduced nutrient deficiency of the microflora. Ergosterol content in faecal pellets was reduced strongly after beech leaf litter processing byG. marginata, indicating a decrease in fungal biomass. Presumably, in faecal pellets bacteria flourished at the expense of fungi.

Key words

Decomposition Diplopods Ergosterol Metabolic quotient Microflora 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Maraun
    • 1
  • Stefan Scheu
    • 1
  1. 1.Abteilung ÖkologieZoologisches InstitutGöttingenGermany

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