, Volume 75, Issue 4, pp 575-579

Phenolic and mineral content of leaves influences decomposition in European forest ecosystems

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Summary

Factors influencing decomposition in European forests growing on different soils were studied in stands dominated by the European beechFagus sylvatica L. Phenolic contents of freshly fallen leaves ofF. sylvatica growing on nutrient-poor soils (acid sandy soil) were higher than those of similar leaves on nutrient-rich soils (calcareous mull soil). Analysis of fallen leaves of different ages showed rapid decay of phenolics during the first winter on the ground. After 1 year the phenolic content of leaves ofF. sylvatica growing on nutrient-poor soils was still twice as high as in similar leaves on nutrient-rich soils. Field and laboratory experiments showed that a major decomposer (Oniscus asellus, Isopoda) preferred leaves from trees on nutrient-rich soils. Mineral contents of leaves ofF. sylvatica growing on different soils differed: on rich soils leaves had higher contents of Ca, Mg, Na, and K. These elements are important nutrients for decomposers. The distribution of major decomposers reflects the mineral content of their diet, which in turn reflects soil type. Different rates of leaf turnover and nutrient turnover in different forest ecosystems (even when the same tree species is dominant) are due to the decomposing system, which is influenced by the phenolic and mineral contents of the leaves.