Generation of Microclimates From the Differential Decomposition of Textiles in North Central Florida
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Forensic Anthropology
Postmortem Interval
Textile Decomposition


The analysis of textiles as trace evidence is an important area of focus in the field of forensic science, because enhanced understanding of the decomposition of textiles may point to more accurate methods for estimating the post mortem interval (PMI) of remains found in association with these materials. This research is especially crucial in areas with unique climates, like the state of Florida. This study examines the generation of microclimates from the differential decomposition of various textile types. This study hypothesized that the decomposition of textiles will generate microclimates with soil properties that differ from those of the surrounding environment, and that different types of textiles will create different microclimates as they decompose. Samples of cotton, UV-proofed cotton, polyester, cotton-polyester blended fabric, ripstop, and wool were buried at four sites on a property in North Central Florida for thirteen weeks, with measures of soil temperature, pH, and moisture level, and weather data collected weekly. Following burial, decomposition of each textile type was scored. Data collected were analyzed in R statistical software. Analysis indicated that the level of degradation differed by textile type but not by site. Textile presence, type of textile, and subsequent decomposition significantly impacted soil pH and moisture at all sites, but did not have a significant effect on soil temperature. The results of this study demonstrate that the decomposition of textiles can create diverse and unique microclimates in the soil environment. When found in association with human remains, presence and type of textile should be considered when estimating decomposition rates and the postmortem interval.

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