Leaf litter decomposition is largely effected by the enzymatic action of fungal colonizers of leaf material. Microscopic attenuated total reflectance (ATR) infrared spectroscopy would be a useful tool to evaluate changes in leaf litter carbohydrate chemistry over time during the colonization process at the scale of resolution of the fungal hyphae. This paper reports the first studies to use microspectroscopy in the mid-infrared (IR) region to perform analyses within an area of 250 X 250 μm to gain spectra of single species of sugars and complex carbohydrates (cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin) to identify characteristic IR reflectance peaks and to be able to separate the species in complex media. Changes in leaf surface carbohydrate chemistry were interpreted from spectra obtained from leaf material that underwent the following: (1) treatment with acetone (to remove surface waxes), (2) treatment with enzymes, and (3) observation after colonization by fungi. Analysis of spectra obtained from random locations or from the same points on the leaf surface over time permitted changes in carbohydrate chemistry to be detected. Comparative analysis of spectra was carried out by using timeseries analysis of variance of selected characteristic peak heights and multivariate statistics.

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