The Tea Bag Saga – Part 1 What’s with the tea bags?


As some of you will know I’ve been slightly preoccupied with Tea Bags of late. So much so that I now no longer have any choice but to write it all out in a blog post. As the title indicates this is a saga and sagas tend to the long winded and winding tales, with many twists and turns, false starts and multiple endings, required to wile away a long dark Scandinavian/Germanic  winter – or glorious southern summer come to that. Hence, for  clarity I have gone for a Dickens style part installment.

Part 1 – What’s with the Tea Bags?

Part 2 – The Tea Bag Index – It’s all about the Tea Bags

Part 3 – (Hopefully) All’s well that ends well

Back in early November 2013 (MEE: Issue 4: (11) ) came out with a striking cover photo of a couple of fancy looking TeaBags and a neat little experimental protocol. And Samantha’s MEE blog post neatly summarizes the attraction.

In the accompanying study, “Tea Bag Index: a novel approach to collect uniform decomposition data across ecosystems”, these contrasting litter types were exposed to decomposition by placing them in soil. Using the litter weight-loss, the tea bag index (TBI) was calculated, which allows the comparison of microbial decomposition dynamics on a local, regional and global scale.” [from Samantha’s Blog post]

This was followed up by two of the authors (Joost Keuskamp & Mariet Hefting from Utrecht University) discussing the TeaBagIndex with MEE Associate Editor David Warton.

All in all I was seduced. It’s a great idea, it’s low cost, they’ve done all the standardization work and testing, it’s brand new and published in a high quality journal – ok I’m a bit based here – but still Impact factors don’t lie 🙂 and best of all its exactly what I needed when I needed it. A simple, cheap method to quantify a key carbon related ecosystem service – Decomposition rate


About Tinkerbel405

I am an Ecologist based at Landcare Research, Dunedin (in Otago, New Zealand). I mainly work on species responses to environmental change. In 2012 I was awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship from the Royal Society of New Zealand. This fellowship has allowed me to return to New Zealand where I am embarking on an exciting new research program: Battlegrounds and safe havens: disentangling the roles of ecology and evolution in the response of biological communities to climate change.
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