Rees, R; Chang, S-C; Wang, C-P; Matzner, E: Release of nutrients and dissolved organic carbon during decomposition of Chamaecyparis obtusa var. formosana leaves in a mountain forest of Taiwan, Journal of Plant Nutr. Soil Sci., 169, 792-798 (2006), doi:DOI: 10.1002/jpln.200521864
Forest ecosystems in Taiwan are periodically influenced by typhoons that cause large amounts of litter input to the soil. The potential rapid decomposition of such litter under the warm and moist climatic conditions in Taiwan may lead to nutrient losses via seepage. The goal of this study was to investigate the dynamics of C, N, K, Ca, Mg, and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) during decomposition of Chamaecyparis obtusa var. formosana leaves in a field study at the Yuanyang Lake site in N Taiwan. We simulated the effect of a typhoon by adding about three times the annual aboveground litterfall (totally 13,900 kg ha-1) as fresh leaves. Litterbags were taken at 7 dates over 16 months, followed by detection of mass loss and element composition in the remaining litter. Aqueous extracts of the remaining litter were analyzed for DOC and major elements. The properties of DOC were characterized by fluorescence spectra and by its stability against microbial decomposition. The litter mass loss was 35% after 16 months. The losses of Ca after 16 months from the litter bags were about equivalent to mass loss (39%), while those of K and Mg reached 86% and 60% of the initial amount, respectively. From the 13,900 kg ha-1 of litter applied in total, 59 kg K ha-1 and 12 kg Mg ha-1 were released in the 16 months decomposition period, most of it in the first 4 months. The total release of Ca amounted to 69 kg ha-1 but was more evenly distributed throughout the 16 months of observation. The absolute amount of N in the decomposing litter increased by 37% while the C : N decreased from 69 to 34. Extrapolated to the manipulation treatment, this resulted in a N gain of 36 kg N ha-1 within 16 months. The leaching of K and DOC in laboratory extractions followed an asymptotic function with highest leaching from the initial litter and subsequent decrease with time of decomposition. On the contrary, the leaching of Ca and Mg reached a maximum after 2-4 months of incubation. About 2% of the C was extractable with water from the initially incubated leaves. The bioavailability of the extracted DOC decreased with litter age. Our results indicate that the decomposition of large amounts of litter induces a high risk of K and Mg losses with seepage, but the risk for N losses is low. The sources of N accumulation in decomposing litter at this site require further studies. In the initial phase of litter decomposition, the release of DOC seems to be an important contribution to mass loss.
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