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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Department Soil Ecology - Prof. Dr. Eva Lehndorff

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McTiernan, KB; Couteaux, M-M; Berg, B; Berg, M; Calvo de Anta, R; Gallardo, A; Kratz, W; Piussi, P; Remacle, J; Virzo de Santo, A: Changes in chemical composition of Pinus sylvestris needle litter during decomposition along a European coniferous forest climatic transect, Soil Biology Biochemistry, 35, 801-812 (2003)
The objective of this investigation was to assess the changes in chemical composition (lignin, cellulose, hemicelluloses, non-structural compounds, N, and ash) of decomposing litter. Standard Pinus sylvestris needle litter, originating from southern Sweden, was incubated in litterbags at 15 sites selected from the Netherlands to south Spain. The changes in chemical composition of this litter were determined using near infrared reflectance spectroscopy. The hypothesis was that standard (chemically uniform) litter decomposing under a range of climates would show different dynamics of accumulation and loss of C-fractions, N, and ash, relative to mass loss. It was shown that, for a given mass-loss value (10, 20, 30, 40, or 50%), the proportion of lignin, cellulose, hemicelluloses, non-structural compounds, N, and ash in the decomposing pine needles differed between sites. Lignin concentration in the litter residue at 50% mass loss ranged from approximately 26 to 43%, cellulose from 19 to 27%, hemicelluloses from 7 to 11%, non-structural compounds from 19 to 25%, N from 0.7 to 1.3%, and ash content from 1.4 to 10.1%. Lignin concentrations showed the highest range of variation. Lignin concentrations during decomposition were positively related to moisture factors as significant correlations were found with actual evapotranspiration and were improved in multiple regressions by the mean annual precipitation or the water surplus. Cellulose was degraded further at sites with high precipitation whereas hemicellulose degradation was related to temperature. This leads to the conclusion that the remaining organic matter produced by standard litter decomposition within the studied climatic range of variations tended to be more recalcitrant under wet and warm climatic conditions than under cold or dry climate. Author Keywords: Climatic transect; Coniferous forest; Decomposition; N; Lignin; Cellulose; Hemicelluloses; Non-structural compounds; Ash; Litter; NIRS; van Soest
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