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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Decomposition rates in late stages of Scots pine and Norway spruce needle litter: Influence of nutrients and substrate properties over a climate gradient

Berg, Bjorn; Lonn, Mikael; Ni, Xiangyin; Sun, Tao; Dong, Lili; Gaitnieks, Talis; De Santo, Amalia Virzo; Johansson, Maj-Britt


The aim of this paper is to show different patterns for decomposition of the main mass of needle litter from two boreal and temperate coniferous tree species, both leading to a stabilized fraction of litter. To this purpose we have reviewed information on decomposition patterns in the lignin-dominated (late) stages of two local foliar litter types, namely those of Scots pine (Pinus silvestris) and Norway spruce (Picea abies) from two climatic gradients of equal extension. We have also reviewed factors determining the limit values for both species. Long-term decomposition studies were used to calculate annual mass loss in the lignin-dominated decomposition stage and relate these to mean annual temperature (MAT), mean annual precipitation (MAP) and concentrations of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn) and acid unhydrolyzable residue (gravimetric lignin, AUR).There was no effect of MAT on decomposition of either needle litter type. MAP had a rate-dampening effect on decomposition of Norway spruce litter. There was a rate-stimulating effect of Mn for Norway spruce litter but not for that of Scots pine. In spite of the strong negative effect of AUR and N on decomposition of Scots pine litter there was none at all for that of Norway spruce. Limit values for decomposition were related to the litters' initial concentrations of N, Mn and AUR and differed between litter types for locally collected, natural litter and for that from experimental litter, the latter having higher N and lower Mn concentrations than the natural litter. We conclude that the two litter types have clear differences as regards rate-regulating factors for decompo-sition in the late lignin-dominated stage as well as for the stable fraction and suggest two different pathways for their decomposition. This is the first time that different pathways have been suggested for decomposing litter.


Plant litter decomposition; Acid unhydrolyzable residue; Annual mass loss; Limit values; Substrate nutrients; Climate gradient

Published in

Forest Ecology and Management
2022, Volume: 522, article number: 120452
Publisher: ELSEVIER

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science

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