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  1. Lopez_Bianca (Ed.)

    Rivers and streams contribute to global carbon cycling by decomposing immense quantities of terrestrial plant matter. However, decomposition rates are highly variable and large-scale patterns and drivers of this process remain poorly understood. Using a cellulose-based assay to reflect the primary constituent of plant detritus, we generated a predictive model (81% variance explained) for cellulose decomposition rates across 514 globally distributed streams. A large number of variables were important for predicting decomposition, highlighting the complexity of this process at the global scale. Predicted cellulose decomposition rates, when combined with genus-level litter quality attributes, explain published leaf litter decomposition rates with high accuracy (70% variance explained). Our global map provides estimates of rates across vast understudied areas of Earth and reveals rapid decomposition across continental-scale areas dominated by human activities.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 14, 2025