Plant and Soil

, Volume 304, Issue 1–2, pp 179–188 | Cite as

Impacts of litter and understory removal on soil properties in a subtropical Acacia mangium plantation in China

  • Yanmei Xiong
  • Hanping Xia
  • Zhi’an Li
  • Xi’an Cai
  • Shenglei Fu
Regular Article

Abstract

In forest ecosystems, the effects of litter or understory on soil properties are far from being fully understood. We conducted a study in a pure Acacia mangium Willd. plantation in southern China, by removing litter or understory or both components and then comparing these treatments with a control (undisturbed), to evaluate their respective effects on soil physical, chemical and biological properties. In addition, a litter decomposition experiment was conducted to understand the effects of understory on litter decomposition. Our data showed that the presence of understory favored litter decomposition to a large extent. In 1 year, 75.2 and 37.2% of litter were decomposed in the control and understory removal treatment (UR), respectively. Litter had a profound significance in retaining soil water and contributing to soil fertility, including organic matter (OM), available phosphorus (P) and alkali-hydrolyzable nitrogen (N), but understory exerted less influence than litter on soil physical and chemical properties. Both litter and understory played an important role in soil biological activity as indicated by microbial biomass carbon (MBC), while there were no significant impacts on soil exchangeable potassium (K) after either or both were removed. Contrary to our hypothesis, the effects of understory or litter removal were not always negative. A significant soil pH increase with litter removal was a positive factor for acid soil in the studied site. Except for soil moisture, significant effects, caused by removal of litter or/and understory, on measured soil chemical characteristics were only observed in the top 10 cm soil layer, but not in the 10–20 cm layer. Soil available P and exchangeable K contents were significantly higher in the rainy season than in the dry season, however, for the other soil properties, not substantially affected by season.

Keywords

Litter decomposition Soil fertility Soil microbial biomass Soil pH Soil water content 

Abbreviations

UR

understory removal

LR

litter removal

UR + LR

both understory and litter removal

OM

organic matter

MBC

microbial biomass carbon

Notes

Acknowledgements

The project was funded by the Natural Science Foundation of China (30630015) and the Knowledge Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KZCX2-YW-413). We thank Prof. Murray B. McBride and Dr. Samran Sombatpanit for correction and comments on the manuscript. Special thanks to two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments that significantly improved the manuscript. We are grateful to Messrs Yongbiao Lin, Bi Zou, and Xingquan Rao for their technical helps.

References

  1. Abe M, Miguchi H, Nakashizuka T (2001) An interactive effect of simultaneous death of dwarf bamboo, canopy gap, and predatory rodents on beech regeneration. Oecologia 127:281–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adekalu KO, Olorunfemi IA, Osunbitan JA (2007) Grass mulching effect on infiltration, surface runoff and soil loss of three agricultural soils in Nigeria. Bioresour Technol 98:912–917PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Attignon SE, Weibel D, Lachat T, Sinsin B, Nagel P, Peveling R (2004) Leaf litter breakdown in natural and plantation forests of the Lama forest reserve in Benin. Appl Soil Ecol 27:109–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bailey SW, Horsley SB, Long RP (2005) Thirty years of change in forest soils of the Allegheny Plateau, Pennsylvania. Soil Sci Soc Am J 69:681–690CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bao S (2000) Agricultural and chemical analysis of soil. China Agricultural, Beijing, pp 56–58 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  6. Berg M, de Ruiter P, Didden W, Janssen M, Schouten T, Verhoef H (2001) Community food web, decomposition and nitrogen mineralisation in a stratified Scots pine forest soil. Oikos 94:130–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bolan NS, Hedley MJ, White RE (1991) Processes of soil acidification during nitrogen cycling with emphasis on legume based pastures. Plant Soil 134:53–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Camprodon J, Brotons L (2006) Effects of undergrowth clearing on the bird communities of the Northwestern Mediterranean Coppice Holm oak forests. For Ecol Manage 221:72–82Google Scholar
  9. Chapin FS III (1983) Nitrogen and phosphorus nutrition and nutrient cycling by evergreen and deciduous understory shrubs in an Alaskan black spruce forest. Can J For Res 13:773–781CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. de Santo AV, Berg B, Rutigliano FA, Alfani A, Fioretto A (1993) Factors regulating early-stage decomposition of needle litters in five different coniferous forests. Soil Biol Biochem 25:1423–1433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Didham RK (1998) Altered leaf-litter decomposition rates in tropical forest fragments. Oecologia 116:397–406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eckstein RL, Donath TW (2005) Interactions between litter and water availability affect seedling emergence in four familial pairs of floodplain species. J Ecol 93:807–816CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. FAO (2006) World reference base for soil resources 2006. World Soil Resources Report 103. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  14. Geddes N, Dunkerley D (1999) The influence of organic litter on the erosive effects of raindrops and of gravity drops released from desert shrubs. Catena 36:303–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ghawi I, Battikhi A (1986) Water melon production under mulch and trickle irrigation in the Jordan valley. J Agron Crop Sci 157:145–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ginter DL, Mcleod KW, Sherrod C (1979) Water stress in longleaf pine induced by litter removal. For Ecol Manage 2:13–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Goto Y (2004) Early post-fire vegetation regeneration in Larix kaempferi artificial forests with an undergrowth of Sasa senanensis. Ecol Res 19:311–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hoyt PB, Turner RC (1975) Effects of organic materials added to very acid soils on pH, aluminum, exchangeable NH4, and crop yields. Soil Sci 119:227–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kamisako M, Sannoh K, Kamitani T (2007) Does understory vegetation reflect the history of fluvial disturbance in a riparian forest? Ecol Res 22:67–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Katagiri S, Li C, Nagayama Y, Iwatsubo G (1997) Influences of human impact on nutrient cycling in deteriorated pine forest in southern China. In: Iwatsubo G, Li C (eds) Ecological and hydrological study on a forested watershed in southern China. Kyoto University, Kyoto, pp 165–178Google Scholar
  21. Li Z, Peng S, Rae DJ, Zhou G (2001) Litter decomposition and nitrogen mineralization of soils in subtropical plantation forests of southern China, with special attention to comparisons between legumes and non-legumes. Plant Soil 229:105–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Liu G (1996) Analysis of soil physical and chemical properties and description of soil profiles. China Standard, Beijing, pp 121–265 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  23. Lodge DJ, McDowell WH, McSwiney CP (1994) The importance of nutrient pulses in tropical forests. Tree 9:384–387Google Scholar
  24. MacKinney AL (1929) Effects of forest litter on soil temperature and soil freezing in autumn and winter. Ecology 10:312–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Matsushima M, Chang SX (2007) Effects of understory removal, N fertilization, and litter layer removal on soil N cycling in a 13-year-old white spruce plantation infested with Canada bluejoint grass. Plant Soil 292:243–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Meentemeyer V (1978) Macroclimate and lignin control of litter decomposition rates. Ecology 59:465–472CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Meilleur A, Bouchard A, Bergeron Y (1992) The use of understory species as indicators of landform ecosystem type in heavily disturbed forest: an evaluation in the Haut-Saint-Laurent, Quebec. Vegetation 102:13–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mo J, Brown S, Peng S, Kong G (2003) Nitrogen availability in disturbed, rehabilitated and mature forests of tropical China. For Ecol Manage 175:573–583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nambiar EKS, Sands R (1993) Competition for water and nutrients in forests. Can J For Res 23:1955–1968CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nilsson MC, Wardle DA (2005) Understory vegetation as a forest ecosystem driver: evidence from the northern Swedish boreal forest. Front Ecol Environ 3:421–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Noble AD, Randall PJ (1999) Alkalinity effects of different tree litters incubated in an acid soil of N.S.W., Australia. Agrofor Syst 46:147–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Noble AD, Zenneck I, Randall PJ (1996) Leaf litter ash alkalinity and neutralisation of soil acidity. Plant Soil 179:293–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rhoades CC (1997) Single-tree influences on soil properties in agroforestry: lessons from natural forest and savanna ecosystems. Agrofor Syst 35:71–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ruf A, Kuzyakov Y, Lopatovskaya O (2006) Carbon fluxes in soil food webs of increasing complexity revealed by 14C labelling and 13C natural abundance. Soil Biol Biochem 38:2390–2400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sayer EJ (2006) Using experimental manipulation to assess the roles of leaf litter in the functioning of forest ecosystems. Biol Rev 81:1–31PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Singh JS, Raghubanshi AS, Singh RS, Srivastava SC (1989) Microbial biomass acts as a source of plant nutrients in dry tropical forest and savanna. Nature 338:499–500CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Tang C, Yu Q (1999) Impact of chemical composition of legume residues and initial soil pH on pH change of a soil after residue incorporation. Plant Soil 215:29–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tripathi SK, Sumida A, Shibata H, Uemura S, Ono K, Hara T (2005) Growth and substrate quality of fine root and soil nitrogen availability in a young Betula ermanii forest of northern Japan: effects of the removal of understory dwarf bamboo (Sasa kurilensis). For Ecol Manage 212:278–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Vance ED, Brookes AC, Jenkinson DS (1987) An extraction method for measuring soil microbial biomass C. Soil Biol Biochem 19:703–707CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wardle DA, Nilsson MC, Zackrisson O, Gallet C (2003) Determinants of litter mixing effects in a Swedish boreal forest. Soil Biol Biochem 35:827–835CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wick B, Tiessen H, Menezes RSC (2000) Land quality changes following the conversion of the natural vegetation into silvo-pastoral systems in semi-arid NE Brazil. Plant Soil 222:59–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Yarie J (1980) The role of understory vegetation in the nutrient cycle of forested ecosystems in the mountain hemlock biogeoclimatic zone. Ecology 61:1498–1514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Zhang G, Jiang H, Niu G, Liu X, Peng S (2006) Simulating the dynamics of carbon and nitrogen in litter-removed pine forest. Ecol Modell 195:363–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Zou B, Li Z, Ding Y, Tan W (2006) Litterfall of common plantations in south subtropical China. Acta Ecol Sin 26:715–721 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  45. Zwikel S, Lavee H, Sarah P (2007) Temporal evolution of salts in Mediterranean soils transect under different climatic conditions. Catena 70:282–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yanmei Xiong
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Hanping Xia
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Zhi’an Li
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Xi’an Cai
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Shenglei Fu
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.South China Botanical GardenChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Heshan National Field Research Station of Forest EcosystemHeshanChina
  3. 3.Heshan Hilly Land Interdisciplinary Experimental StationChinese Academy of SciencesHeshanChina

Personalised recommendations