Plant and Soil

, Volume 125, Issue 2, pp 263–280 | Cite as

Nutrients and mass in litter and top soil of ten tropical tree plantations

  • Ariel E. Lugo
  • Elvira Cuevas
  • Mary Jeane Sanchez


The importance of litter to nutrient and organic matter storage and the possible influence of species selection on soil fertility in ten stands each consisting of a separate tree species were examined in this study. The plantations had been grown under similar conditions in an arboretum in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico. The species involved were: Anthocephalus chinensis, Eucalyptus × patentinervis, E. saligna, Hernandia sonora, Hibiscus elatus, Khaya nyasica, Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis, P. elliottii var. densa, Swietenia macrophylla, and Terminalia ivorensis. After 26 yr, litter mass ranged from 5 mg ha-1 in the H. sonora stand to 27.2 Mg ha-1 in the P. caribaea stand. Nutrients in the litter (N, P, K, Ca, and Mg) also varied widely, but stands were ranked in different order when ranked by nutrients in the litter than then ranked according to accumulation of mass. Only E. saligna and A. chinensis stands were ranked similarly in accumulation of both nutrients and mass, and the stand of H. elatus was ranked higher with respect to nutrient accumulation than to accumulation of mass. The nutrient concentration in standing leaf litter generally increased in the order of recently fallen <old intact< fragmented. Nutrient concentration of standing leaf litter appears to increase with age and depth in the litter layer. The amount of nutrients stored in the litter compartment of these plantations was in the same order of magnitude as the quantity of available nutrients in the top 10-cm of mineral soil. Total litter mass was negatively correlated with the mass-weighted concentration of N, K, and Mg. The same relationship was found for Ca in the leaf litter and N in the fine wood litter compartments. In some stands (notably P. caribaea, P. elliottii, and E. saligna), leaf litter derived from species other than the species planted in that particular stand had higher nutrient concentration than leaf litter from the planted species. Soils of the 10 stands were classified in the same soil series and had similar texture (clay soils). However, significantly different chemical characteristics were found. Results obtained by analysis of covariance and by limiting comparisons to adjacent stands with similar soil texture, indicate that different species have had different influences on the concentration of available nutrients in soil.

Key words

Anthocephalus chinensis Eucalyptus × patentinervis E. saligna Hernandia sonora Hibiscus elatus Khaya nyasica litter Luquillo Experimental Forest nutrient cycling Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis P. elliottii var. densa Puerto Rico soil fertility Swietenia macrophylla Terminalia ivorensis tropical tree plantations 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ariel E. Lugo
    • 1
  • Elvira Cuevas
    • 1
  • Mary Jeane Sanchez
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Tropical ForestryUSDA Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment StationRio PiedrasUSA

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