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20 mm

FIGURE 3.3 The decomposition of organic substrates can be estimated by exposing minicontainers filled with site-specific or standard material (e.g., maize straw) for a certain period of time (from weeks to several months) (with permission from Eisenbeis et al., 1999). (A) Minicontainer can be exposed in the top layers of agricultural soils (Ap, ploughed A horizon) and forest soils for several weeks up to years. Vertical insertion of the bars will give information about gradients of decomposition within a soil profile; horizontal exposure of the bars helps to explain spatial variation of decomposition within one horizon. (B) Polyvinylchloride bars are used as carriers for 6 or 12 minicontainers that can be removed from the bar by a rod after exposure (C). (D) A minicontainer in side view, of which the left end is closed with a gauze disc that is fixed with a ring. The mesh size of the gauze will allow or inhibit the colonization of organic substrates by mesofauna (20 p,m, 250 p,m, 500 p,m, or 2 mm). (E) Minicontainers can be filled with organic material of different quality (straw, litter, cellulose, etc.).

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