Are forest floors in mid-rotation stands of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) a sink for nitrogen and phosphorus?

Piatek, K.B.; Allen, H.L.

Canadian Journal of Forest Research-Revue Canadienne de Recherche 31(7): 1164-1174


ISSN/ISBN: 0045-5067
Accession: 070547640

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We examined decomposition and nutrient dynamics in fresh litter and net N mineralization in old litter to determine (i) if forest floor is a source of available nutrients in mid-rotation loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) stands and (ii) the effect of site preparation and vegetation control on forest floor nutrient dynamics. Four types of fresh litter were decomposed in situ in mesh bags: two containing only pine (differing by history of stand management) and two pine-hardwood mixes (ratios 1:5 and 5:1). Litter bags were recovered every May and October for 26 months. Litter type, in particular the presence and amount of leaves, affected decomposition and nutrient dynamics in fresh litter. After 26 months, all fresh litters lost 55% of mass; decay rate constants were 0.43 (needles) to 0.60 year(1) (leaves). Pine (1) and pine (2) and needles in mix 1:5 immobilized N. Almost all fresh litters also immobilized P. After 26 months of decay, N and P pools suggested an accumulation in the needles of 0.7-2.7 kg N.ha(1) and 0.2-0.5 kg P.ha(1) and mineralization of 1.1-3.7 kg N.ha(1) in mix 5:1 needles and mix 1:5 leaves. All fresh litters mineralized K, Ca, and Mg. Old litter was incubated in situ in capped polyvinyl chloride containers from May to November. Monthly rates of net N mineralization in old litter were determined in KCl extracts of NH4+ and NO3. Net N mineralization in old litter was 0.75-1.5 kg N.ha(1) per 6 months and was attributed to mineralization in mineral soil. We conclude that forest floors in these stands are not a source of available N or P. Instead, forest floors appear to be sinks for N and probably P.