, Volume 65, Issue 2, pp 151–178

Endogenous versus exogenous nutrient control over decomposition and mineralization in North Carolina peatlands

  • Authors
  • Scott D. Bridgham
  • Curtis J. Richardson

DOI: 10.1023/A:1026026212581

Cite this article as:
Bridgham, S.D. & Richardson, C.J. Biogeochemistry (2003) 65: 151. doi:10.1023/A:1026026212581


We examined the relative importance of exogenous (pH, water table, soil nutrient and cation availability) and endogenous (carbon quality, nutrient and cation concentrations of litter) controls on litter decay over both the short term (1 yr) and intermediate term (3 yr) in four freshwater peatland communities that occur along a P and N availability gradient in the Coastal Plain of North Carolina. Four litter types were reciprocally transplanted into each community. Additionally, the effects of exogenous nutrient availability and low pH on decomposition dynamics were examined by fertilizing and liming plots in the most nutrient-deficient community, the short pocosin. Both exogenous and endogenous factors were important in controlling decay rates and nutrient mineralization-immobilization dynamics. The most important site factor controlling decay rates was water table, with greater rates of decomposition in drained sites. High initial soluble phenolic concentrations and a low holocellulose quotient (% holocellulose / % lignocellulose) in litter inhibited decay rates. Despite the extremely low nutrient availability in the pocosins and low soil pH in all three communities, both the cross-community comparison and the amendment experiment in the short pocosin demonstrated that exogenous nutrient availability, endogenous nutrient concentrations in litter, and low soil pH do not inhibit decomposition in these sites. In contrast, immobilization-mineralization dynamics of N and P were largely driven by a source-sink relationship, with greatest immobilization found with high exogenous nutrient availability and low initial endogenous nutrient concentrations. We suggest a conceptual model of nutrient control over decomposition as a function of carbon quality of litter.


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003