Interactive Leaf Decomposition Activity

This simulation of litter decomposition allows the selection of the model formulation, litter type, and ecosystem in which litter decomposes, as well as a suite of climate change scenarios. The models differ in conceptual and mathematical description of the decomposition process. The litter types differ in their chemical composition and the ecosystems differ in basic climate characteristics (click the information button next to the drop down menus for details on choices). Decomposition will vary between model, litter, ecosystem, and climate change selections.

All litter types are composed of various combinations of soluble, cellulose and lignin contents. For more information about each litter, click on the litter name below.
  • american beach grass American beach grass (Ammophia breviligulata)
  • american beech American beech (Fagus grandifolia)
  • aspen Aspen (Populus tremuloides)
  • big blue stem Big blue stem (Andropogon gerardii)
  • black gramma Black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda)
  • black locust Black locust (Robinea pseudoacacia)
  • blue gramma Blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis)
  • bog sedge Bog sedge (Kobresia myosuroides)
  • chestnut oak Chestnut oak (Quercus prinus)
  • creosote bush Creosote bush (Larrea tridentata)
  • cotton grass Cotton grass (Eriophorum vaginatum)
  • desert ceanothus Desert ceanothus (Ceanothus greggii)
  • douglas fir Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
  • varital Dyrpetes glauca
  • dwarf birch Dwarf birch (Betula nana)
  • eastern white pine Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)
  • lingonberr Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)
  • little blue stem Little blue stem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
  • pacific dogwood Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii)
  • pacific rhododendron Pacific rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum)
  • red pine Red pine (Pinus resinosa)
  • slash pine Slash pine (Pinus elliotii)
  • sugar maple Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
  • tuliptree Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera)
  • wax myrtle Wax myrtle (Myrica cerifer)
  • western red cedar Western red cedar (Thuja plicata)
  • wheat Wheat (Triticum aestivum)
  • yellow birch Yellow birch (Betula lutea)
Each ecosystem site has specific soil, climate, and plant characteristics. For more information about each site, click on the site name below. To modify a site’s climate, select the temperature and moisture options from the dropdown menus.
  • Andrews Forest Andrews Forest, Oregon
  • Bonanza Creek Forest Bonanza Creek Forest, Alaska
  • Coweeta Forest Coweeta Forest, North Carolina
  • Hubbard Brook Forest Hubbard Brook Forest, New Hampshire
  • Niwot Ridge Forest Niwot Ridge Forest, Colorado
  • Niwot Ridge Tundra Niwot Ridge Tundra, Colorado
  • Toolik Field Station Toolik Field Station, Alaska
  • Sevilleta Grasslands Sevilleta Grasslands, New Mexico
Each model simulates the decomposition of the selected litter types at the selected ecosystems under the chosen climate scenarios. For more information about each model, click on the model name below.
  • Olsen Olsen
  • Paul and Juma Paul and Juma
  • Parton Parton
  • Schimel and Weintraub Schimel and Weintraub