Plant and Soil

, Volume 378, Issue 1, pp 215–226

Effects on nutrient cycling of conifer restoration in a degraded tropical montane forest


    • Center for Forest ResearchUniversité du Québec à Montréal
  • J. D. León-Peláez
    • Departamento de Ciencias ForestalesUniversidad Nacional de Colombia
  • D. Craven
    • German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Synthesis Centre for Biodiversity Sciences (sDiv)
  • D. A. Herrera
    • Departamento de Ciencias ForestalesUniversidad Nacional de Colombia
  • C. M. Zapata
    • Departamento de Ciencias ForestalesUniversidad Nacional de Colombia
  • M. I. González-Hernández
    • Departamento de Biología Animal, Parasitología, Ecología, Edafología y Química AgrícolaUniversidad de Salamanca
  • J. Gallardo-Lancho
    • Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, IRNASa
  • W. Osorio
    • Departamento de BiocienciasUniversidad Nacional de Colombia
Regular Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11104-014-2024-x

Cite this article as:
Ramírez, J.A., León-Peláez, J.D., Craven, D. et al. Plant Soil (2014) 378: 215. doi:10.1007/s11104-014-2024-x


Background and aims

Exotic coniferous species have been used widely in restoration efforts in tropical montane forests due to their tolerance to adverse conditions and rapid growth, with little consideration given to the potential ecological benefits provided by native tree species. The aim of this study was to elucidate differences in litterfall and nutrient flow between a montane oak forest (Quercus humboldtii Bonpl.) and exotic coniferous plantations of pine (Pinus patula Schltdl. & Cham.) and cypress (Cupressus lusitanica Mill.) in the Colombian Andes.


Litter production, litter decomposition rate, and element composition of leaf litter were monitored during 3 years.


Litter production in the oak forest and pine plantation was similar, but considerably lower in the cypress plantation . Similar patterns were observed for nutrient concentrations in litterfall, with the exception of Ca which was three times higher in the cypress plantation. The annual decay rate of litter was faster in the montane oak forest than in either of the exotic coniferous plantations. The potential and net return of nutrients to the forest floor were significantly higher in oak forest than in the exotic coniferous plantations.


Future restoration programs should consider new species that can emulate the nutrient flow of native broadleaf species instead of exotic species that tend to impoverish soil nutrient stocks in tropical montane forests.


Leaf litterfallNutrient flowsMontane tropical forestsPlantationsQuercus humboldtiiPinus patulaCupressus lusitanica

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014