Aloysius’s paper on estimating tropical plant litter decomposition published in Pedobiologia

Aloysius Teo completed his PhD in the lab in 2017, and a chapter from his thesis has just been published in Pedobiologia. The “tea bag method” was developed several years ago by our coauthor Joost Keuskamp for estimating decomposition rates of plant litter. The method relies on commercially available tea bags, thus facilitating standardisation of methods across studies. Aloysius explored the applicability of the method to tropical forests, where a particular problem is that abundant termites readily damage tea bags.

Aloysius found that tea bag attack rates by termites were large enough in tropical forests in Singapore to invalidate experimental results relying on the tea bag method. He trialed methods for excluding termites and, based on his results, recommended an extended tea bag method for future use in the tropics that relies on a combination of unmodified tea bags and termite exclusion treatments.

Teo, A., N. P. Kristensen, J. A. Keuskamp, T. A. Evans, M. Foo, R. A. Chisholm. 2020. Validation and extension of the tea bag index to collect decomposition data from termite-rich ecosystems. Pedobiologia (in press)

tea bags

Top: Physical termite exclusion barriers used for tea bags in the study, along with unmodified tea bags. Bottom: A tea bag undetected by termites (left) alongside two bags that were detected (centre and right).