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Nutrient Dynamics and Decomposition of Litterfall in Floodplain and Upland Forests of Central Illinois

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Patterns of litterfall and decomposition in adjacent floodplain and upland forest communities were investigated at Robert Allerton Park in central Illinois. Floodplain and upland litterfall were similar in terms of dry weight and most nutrients, and were higher than litterfall for other similar forest communities. Leaf litter decomposed rapidly at the floodplain site, and substantial amounts of nutrients were transferred to the mineral soil prior to flooding. This may have been advantageous to individuals of the forest community because the mineral soil nutrient pool was enriched prior to removal of forest floor litter by spring floods. Dry weight loss from leaf litter in the upland forest was much slower than for floodplain litter. Retention of N during leaf litter decomposition was high, indicating a probable demand for this element by heterotrophic decomposer organisms. Assimilation of N from external sources suggests that leaf litter may act as a temporary sink for N. Calcium was moderately retained, P was lost at the same rate as dry weight, and K, Mg, and Na were rapidly leached. This study shows that differences in species characteristics and variability of the physical environment in floodplain and upland forests produce contrasting patterns of nutrient transfer. Forest Sci. 28:667-681.

Keywords: Bottomland forest; leaching; leaves; nitrogen; nutrient cycling; oakhickory forest

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Professor, Department of Forestry, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801

Publication date: December 1, 1982

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