A controlled laboratory experiment is described, in principle and practice, which can be used for the of determination the rate of tissue decomposition in soil. By way of example, an experiment was conducted to determine the effect of temperature (12°C, 22°C) on the aerobic decomposition of skeletal muscle tissue (Organic Texel × Suffolk lamb (Ovis aries)) in a sandy loam soil. Measurements of decomposition processes included muscle tissue mass loss, microbial CO2 respiration, and muscle tissue carbon (C) and nitrogen (N). Muscle tissue mass loss at 22°C always was greater than at 12°C (p < 0.001). Microbial respiration was greater in samples incubated at 22°C for the initial 21 days of burial (p < 0.01). All buried muscle tissue samples demonstrated changes in C and N content at the end of the experiment. A significant correlation (p < 0.001) was demonstrated between the loss of muscle tissue-derived C (C1) and microbially-respired C (Cm) demonstrating CO2 respiration may be used to predict mass loss and hence biodegradation. In this experiment Q10 (12°C - 22°C) = 2.0. This method is recommended as a useful tool in determining the effect of environmental variables on the rate of decomposition of various tissues and associated materials.
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