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Carbon and nitrogen transfer in leaf litter mixtures

Berglund SL, Ågren GI, Ekblad A


The decomposition rate of litter mixtures can differ from that expected on the basis of the decomposition rate of the individual components. This difference may be linked to nitrogen (N) transfer from high-N to low-N components. Transfer of N is probably also associated with transfer of C, but the extent and direction of this C transfer are unknown. This study examined transfer and loss in laboratory microcosms of C and N from two mixed litter species (Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris L. and maize, Zea mays L.), which have natural isotopic differences in 13C. Half the material was 15N-labelled and the plants were fertilised or unfertilised. Substantial bidirectional transfer of C and N occurred between the litters, with net transfer of C from pine to maize litter and net transfer of N from high-N to low-N litter. Mixtures of fertilised and unfertilised plant litter showed higher than expected C losses and net transfer of N. Mixtures with litters from the same fertilisation treatment had small or insignificant net transfer of N and their C losses did not differ from values estimated using the decomposition rates of the pure litters.

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Soil Biology and Biochemistry
2013, Volume: 57, pages: 341-348
Publisher: Elsevier

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