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The Tea Bag Index—UK: using citizen/community science to investigate organic matter decomposition rates in domestic gardens

Duddigan, S., Alexander, P. D., Shaw, L. J., Sanden, T. and Collins, C. D. (2020) The Tea Bag Index—UK: using citizen/community science to investigate organic matter decomposition rates in domestic gardens. Sustainability, 12 (17). 6895. ISSN 2071-1050

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To link to this item DOI: 10.3390/su12176895


Gardening has the potential to influence several ecosystem services, including soil carbon dynamics, and shape progression towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals, (e.g., SDG 13). There are very few citizen/community science projects that have been set up to test an explicit hypothesis. However, citizen/community science allows collection of countrywide observations on ecosystem services in domestic gardens to inform us on the effects of gardening on SDGs. The geographical spread of samples that can be collected by citizen/community science would not be possible with a team of professional science researchers alone. Members of the general public across the UK submitted soil samples and buried standardised litter bags (tea bags) as part of the Tea Bag Index—UK citizen/community science project. Participants returned 511 samples from across the UK from areas in their garden where soil organic amendments were and were not applied. The project examined the effects of application of soil amendments on decomposition rates and stabilisation of litter, and in turn, effects on soil carbon and nitrogen concentrations. This was in response to a call for contributions to a global map of decomposition in the Teatime4Science campaign. Results suggested that application of amendments significantly increased decomposition rate and soil carbon, nitrogen, and carbon: nitrogen ratios within each garden. So much so that amendment application had more influence than geographic location. Furthermore, there were no significant interactions between location and amendment application. We therefore conclude that management in gardens has similar effects on soil carbon and decomposition, regardless of the location of the garden in question. Stabilisation factor was influenced more prominently by location than amendment application. Gardening management decisions can influence a number of SDGs and a citizen/community science project can aid in both the monitoring of SDGs, and involvement of the public in delivery of SDGs.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Soil Research Centre
ID Code:92829


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