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Patterns and spatial variations in the moisture of the decomposing organic matter on the forest floor (the duff) of a montane forest were analysed in an effort to determine the primary factors shaping these patterns. Above and below canopy meteorological conditions were monitored to determine the influence of canopy cover on duff moisture. The spatial and temporal distributions of duff moisture were assessed through daily duff moisture measurements collected at regular intervals in ten 10 × 10 m plots representing a variety of canopy types and densities. Meteorological conditions ranged from very wet to very dry and resulted in duff moisture variations that were more pronounced during wet periods than in extended periods of drying. Investigations on the influence of canopy type, tree density, and tree proximity on duff moisture patterns indicated that canopy type and tree proximity are the most important factors affecting duff moisture. Interception seems to be the primary controller of duff moisture patterns with an influence at the centimetre scale. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.