The rate of breakdown of forest litter varies between seasons according to temperature, moisture content and situation.  In temperate regions, for instance, an oak leaf may decompose completely in eight to 15 months, whereas in the tropics a similar leaf may completely disappear in eight weeks after falling.

For several weeks after a leaf has fallen in a temperate region is not eaten by microfauna.  During this time it is invaded mainly by fungi, which tend to break it apart.  At the same time it is leached by water which dissolves and remove phenols and other chemical substances into the lower layers of the soil.  The leaf then comes under attack from beetles, and other small arthropods, worms and small animals that chew it and…



Source by Andrea Watt