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FIGURE 3.9. Idealized plot of lignocellulase activity (heavy dashed line) in relation to litter mass loss (solid line) through time. Lignocellulase activity traces a "bell-shaped" pattern over the course of litter decomposition, peaking (in this example) when cumulative mass loss reaches 45%. The dashed horizontal lines at 20% and 80% mass loss highlight breakpoints in the mass loss curve. During the early stages of litter decomposition rapid mass loss is often largely attributable to leaching and mineralization of soluble litter constituents. In the middle stage, lignocellulose degradation predominates. Throughout the late stages, the accumulation of humic condensates depresses microbial activity, stabilizing the remaining material (from Sinsabaugh et al., 1994).

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