Effects of exotic and native tree leaf litter on soil properties of two contrasting sites in the Iberian Peninsula
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- Castro-Díez, P., Fierro-Brunnenmeister, N., González-Muñoz, N. et al. Plant Soil (2012) 350: 179. doi:10.1007/s11104-011-0893-9
We assessed the effects of native and exotic tree leaf litter on soil properties in two contrasting scenarios. The native Quercus robur and Pinus pinaster tree species coexist with the aliens Eucalyptus globulus and Acacia dealbata in acid soils of NW Spain. The native trees Fraxinus angustifolia and Ulmus minor coexist with the aliens Ailanthus altissima, Robinia pseudoacacia and Ulmus pumila in eutrophic basic riparian soils in Central Spain.
Four plastic trays per species were filled with homogenized top-soil of the site and covered with leaf litter. Before and after 9 months of incubation, litter mass, soil pH, organic matter, mineral and total N were measured. Available mineral N (NO3−-N and NH4+-N) was assessed every 2 months.
Soil biological activity was higher in the basic than in the acid soil. Litter of the exotic trees tended to decompose less than litter of native species, probably due to the presence of secondary metabolites in the former. Soil pH, mineral and total N responded differently to different litter types, irrespective of their exotic or native origin (acid soil), or was similar across litter treatments (basic riparian soil). The similar response of the basic soil to the addition of different litter types may be due to the low contrast of litter quality between the species. E. globulus litter inhibitied soil microbial activity much more than the rest of the studied litter types, leading to a drastic impoverishment of N in soils.
Litter of exotic N-fixing trees (A. dealbata and R. pseudoacacia) did not increase soil N pools because of the inhibition of microbial activity by secondary compounds. Therefore, secondary metabolites of the litter played a major role explaining exotic litter impact on soil properties.