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Quantity, Decomposition, and Nutrient Dynamics of Aspen Litterfall in Utah

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The quantity and nutrient content of aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) leaf and twig litter on a northern Utah site were measured at time of annual leaf fall. Decay rate and nutrient changes were monitored over a 2-year period. Approximately 1,397 kg/ha of leaves and 213 kg/ha of twigs were shed each summer and autumn of 3 years. This litterfall contained about 8 kg/ha of N, 1 kg/ha of P, 7 kg/ha of K, 30 kg/ha of Ca, and 2 kg/ha of Mg. Leaves supplied some 84 percent of the nutrients in litter. With the exception of an increase in Ca, the fresh aspen leaf litter contained lower concentrations of most nutrients than did green leaves harvested in August. Leaf litter held in situ in 1 mm mesh nylon bags lost 42 percent of its weight during the first winter, then remained relatively stable for the remainder of the 2-year period. Twig litter decayed at less than half this rate. Ash, N, P, and Fe contents of leaf litter appeared to increase and K, Ca, and Na contents appeared to decrease during the first winter. Ca content decreased markedly during the second summer, and there was a slow enrichment of these decaying leaves with N throughout the period. Forest Sci. 27:381-390.

Keywords: Populus tremuloides; decomposition; litterfall; nutrient concentration; nutrient cycling; nutrient release; soil enrichment

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Plant Ecologist, USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Ogden, Utah 84401

Publication date: June 1, 1981

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
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