New Forests

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Nutrient dynamics in an Andean forest region: a case study of exotic and native species plantations in southern Ecuador

  • Pablo QuichimboEmail author
  • Leticia Jiménez
  • Darío Veintimilla
  • Karin Potthast
  • Alexander Tischer
  • Sven Günter
  • Reinhard Mosandl
  • Ute Hamer


Information about nutrient dynamics is of upmost importance in order to contribute to the restoration of degraded forest environments in the Andes of southern Ecuador. This study aims to investigate the differences of nutrient dynamics between a native alder (Alnus acuminata) and an exotic pine (Pinus patula) tree species in this region. Based on litterfall, forest floor and mineral topsoil (0–20 cm) of two pine and two alder plantations, we studied the litterfall production and its seasonality; temporal variations of nutrient concentrations, stoichiometric ratios and potential nutrient return (PNR) of leaf-litterfall; mean residence times (MRT) of nutrients in the forest floor; and assessed soil biogeochemical properties. Our results showed that total litterfall production in pine was twice as high as in alder. Litterfall biomass seasonality was similar for both species and highly associated to periods with less precipitation. Pine exhibited the highest seasonality of nutrient concentrations and stoichiometric ratios. PNR of N, K, Ca, and Mn exhibited the major differences between the species. The annual PNR of N and Ca were higher in alder, while those of K and Mn were higher in pine. Pine exhibited higher MRT values for C, N, P, S, Cu, and Zn, while alder showed the higher for Mg, K, Mn, and Ca. In soils, alder exhibited higher concentrations and stocks of nutrients, but not for C. Although, the soil microbial biomass was similar under both species, microbial activity was different. C and net N mineralization were higher in alder, and nitrification dominated over ammonification processes. In general, our findings show a faster cycling of nutrients in alder than in pine.


Andean alder Litterfall seasonality Mean residence time Potential nutrient return Soil microbial activity Soil microbial biomass 



We thank the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Project DFG RU 816/2-T1, HA 4597/4-1) for financial support. Partial funding was given by the UTPL, SENESCYT and Universidad de Cuenca.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 100 kb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Landscape EcologyWWU – University of MuensterMuensterGermany
  2. 2.Carrera de Ingeniería Agronómica, Facultad de Ciencias AgropecuariasUniversidad de CuencaCuencaEcuador
  3. 3.Departamento de Ciencias BiológicasUniversidad Técnica Particular de LojaLojaEcuador
  4. 4.Departamento de Recursos Hídricos y Ciencias AmbientalesUniversidad de CuencaCuencaEcuador
  5. 5.Department of Ecology and Ecosystem Management, Institute of SilvicultureTechnische Universität MünchenFreisingGermany
  6. 6.Carrera de Ingeniería ForestalUniversidad Nacional de LojaLojaEcuador
  7. 7.Institute of Soil ScienceFriedrich Schiller University JenaJenaGermany
  8. 8.Thünen Institute of International Forestry and Forest EconomicsHamburgGermany

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