Litter (ecology)

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Dead plant material in the initial stage of decomposition

Litter is the waste of the vegetation that lies largely undecomposed on the soil surface and forms the litter layer there. Scattering layers are found mainly in places where no agronomic management takes place, both in the forest vegetation in other formations such as grassland broke . The litter forms the so-called L- horizon of litter = litter.

Litter is also called the plant material that is used in litter for cattle sheds, e.g. B. is obtained in so-called litter meadows .


During litter decomposition, the organic material is converted into humus with the help of soil organisms such as earthworms , woodlice , mites , springtails and microorganisms . Degradation can take different times depending on the environmental conditions and the composition of the litter. In contrast to leaf litter, a high proportion of needle litter delays the breakdown. Moisture, warmth, a high pH value and food supply have an accelerating effect. Under favorable conditions, the litter can be completely decomposed within a few weeks to months.

It is difficult to make statements about the duration of the decomposition of litter, as this depends on numerous factors. These include

  • how deep the litter is
  • the plant species from which the litter comes, or
  • the size of the litter (fine litter is broken down faster than coarse litter).

Assuming that the same amount of litter accumulates as is decomposed, the average turnover period for deciduous trees is 4 years and for conifers 350 years.

Web links

Commons : Scatter  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Jürgen Schulz (2002): The ecological zones of the earth. 3rd, completely revised edition. Stuttgart: Eugen Ulmer, p. 152.