Plant and Soil

, Volume 306, Issue 1–2, pp 199–210 | Cite as

Trends in major and trace elements in decomposing needle litters during a long-term experiment in Swedish forests

  • Christian B. BrunEmail author
  • Mats E. Åström
  • Pasi Peltola
  • Maj-Britt Johansson
Regular Article


The dynamics of 47 major and trace elements were examined during a long-term (up to 8 years between 1979 and 1988) litter decomposition experiment in European boreal and nemoboreal forests (Sweden). Litterbags were incubated in 11 monocultural stands at 10 different locations including seven with Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) H. Karst.) and four with Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.). Principal component analysis and manual scatter plots revealed groups of elements behaving in a similar manner. One group consisted mainly of nutrients, but also of the unessential or toxic elements Rb, Sc, Sr and Tl, and had a general trend with decreasing mass-normalised (mn) concentrations during decomposition. Another group contained mostly unessential and potentially toxic elements, whose concentrations generally increased during the decay process. An exception from this increasing trend was found for Cd, Hf, Hg, Ta and Zr, for which the mn-concentrations increased initially followed by a net leaching from the litter. The influence of sea spray was identified in the early stages of the experiment (in particular for Na), and the impact of the anthropogenic component of atmospheric deposition was clearly visible (e.g. Pb, Cd, Hg). A regional northern Sb source is indicated in the pine, but not in the spruce, needles. The fact that the samples were collected at a time of higher atmospheric metal deposition than at present provides additional information and usefulness of the results.


Boreal Decomposition Forest litter Long-term Multielement Trace element 



Pasi Peltola received part of his funding from The Knowledge Foundation (KK-Stiftelsen).


  1. Adriano DC (2001) Trace elements in terrestrial environments – biogeochemistry, bioavailability and risks of metals. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Beniston M, Stephenson D, Christensen O, Ferro C, Frei C, Goyette S, Halsnaes K, Holt T, Jylhä K, Koffi B, Palutikof J, Schöll R, Semmler T, Woth K (2007) Future extreme events in European climate: an exploration of regional climate model projections. Clim Change 81:71–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berg B, McClaugherty C (2003) Plant litter – decomposition, humus formation, carbon sequestration. Springer, HeidelbergGoogle Scholar
  4. Eriksson B (1985) Nederbörds och humiditetsklimatet i Sverige under vegetationsperioden. SMHI, RMK 46, Norrköping (in Swedish)Google Scholar
  5. Harmens H, Buse A, Buker P, Norris D, Mills G, Williams B, Reynolds B, Ashenden TW, Ruhling A, Steinnes E (2004) Heavy metal concentrations in European mosses: 2000/2001 survey. J Atmos Chem 49:425–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. IVL (2000) Tungmetalldeposition i Sverige uppmätt i mossa 1975–2000. (“Heavy metal deposition in Sweden measured in moss, 1975–2000”). Naturvårdsverket – Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.
  7. Jacobson AR, McBride MB, Baveye P, Steenhuis TS (2005) Environmental factors determining the trace-level sorption of silver and thallium to soils. Sci Total Environ 345:191–205PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Johansson K, Bergbäck B, Tyler G (2001) Impact of atmospheric long range transport of lead, mercury and cadmium on the Swedish forest environment. Water Air Soil Poll Focus 1:279–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Johansson MB (1986) Chemical composition and decomposition pattern of leaf litters from forest trees in Sweden with special reference to methodological aspects and site properties. In Department of forest soils. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, UppsalaGoogle Scholar
  10. Johansson MB (1995) The chemical composition of needle and leaf-litter from Scots Pine, Norway spruce and white birch in Scandinavian forests. Forestry 68:49–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Johansson MB (1994) Decomposition rates of Scots Pine needle litter related to site properties, litter quality, and climate. Can J Forest Res 24:1771–1781CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Johansson MB, Berg B, Meentemeyer V (1995) Litter mass-loss rates in late stages of decomposition in a climatic transect of pine forests – long-term decomposition in a Scots pine forest.9. Can J Botany 73:1509–1521CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kabata-Pendias A, Pendias H (2001) Trace elements in soils and plants. CRC, Boca Raton, FL, USAGoogle Scholar
  14. Laskowski R, Berg B, Johansson MB, McClaugherty C (1995a) Release pattern for potassium from decomposing forest needle and leaf litter. Long-term decomposition in a Scots pine forest.9. Can J Botany 73:2019–2027Google Scholar
  15. Laskowski R, Niklinska M, Maryanski M (1995b) The dynamics of chemical-elements in forest litter. Ecology 76:1393–1406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Lomander A, Johansson MB (2001) Changes in concentrations of Cd, Zn, Mn, Cu and Pb in spruce (Picea abies) needle litter during decomposition. Water Air Soil Poll 132:165–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Madejon P, Murillo JM, Maranon T, Valdes B, Oilva SR (2005) Thallium accumulation in floral structures of Hirschfeldia incana (L.) Lagrèze-Fossat (Brassicaceae). B Environ Contam Tox 74:1058–1064CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Muukkonen P (2005) Needle biomass turnover rates of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) derived from the needle-shed dynamics. Trees-Struct Funct 19:273–279Google Scholar
  19. Reimann C, Koller F, Frengstad B, Kashulina G, Niskavaara H, Englmaier P (2001) Comparison of the element composition in several plant species and their substrate from a 1,500,000-km2 area in Northern Europe. Sci Total Environ 278:87–112PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Rühling Å, Tyler G (2001) Changes in atmospheric deposition rates of heavy metals in Sweden a summary of nationwide Swedish surveys in 1968/70–1995. Water Air Soil Poll Focus 1:311–323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Starr M, Saarsalmi A, Hokkanen T, Merila P, Helmisaari H-S (2005) Models of litterfall production for Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) in Finland using stand, site and climate factors. Forest Ecol Manag 205:215–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Tyler G (2005) Changes in the concentrations of major, minor and rare-earth elements during leaf senescence and decomposition in a Fagus sylvatica forest. Forest Ecol Manag 206:167–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Tyler G (2004a) Ionic charge, radius, and potential control root/soil concentration ratios of fifty cationic elements in the organic horizon of a beech (Fagus sylvatica) forest podzol. Sci Total Environ 329:231–239PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Tyler G (2004b) Vertical distribution of major, minor, and rare elements in a Haplic Podzol. Geoderma 119:277–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Tyler G, Olsson T (2002) Conditions related to solubility of rare and minor elements in forest soils. J Plant Nutr Soil Sc 165:594–601CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian B. Brun
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mats E. Åström
    • 1
  • Pasi Peltola
    • 1
  • Maj-Britt Johansson
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Pure and Applied Natural SciencesKalmar UniversityKalmarSweden
  2. 2.Department of Forest SoilsSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden

Personalised recommendations