Plant and Soil

, Volume 418, Issue 1–2, pp 357–375 | Cite as

Decomposition rates and nutrient dynamics of Picea abies needles, twigs and fine roots after stem-only harvesting in eastern and western Norway

  • Toril D. Eldhuset
  • O. Janne Kjønaas
  • Holger LangeEmail author
Regular Article


Background and aims

Decomposition of the finest harvest residues is important for the carbon and nutrient cycle in forest ecosystems both before and after tree felling. We assumed that decomposition is dependent on harvest residue fraction and chemistry, soil temperature and moisture, and aimed at determining decomposition rates and nutrient dynamics of needles, twigs and fine roots from newly felled Picea abies trees in two sites with different climate and topography.


Decomposition of needles, twigs and fine roots in mesh bags was followed for up to six years and four years in harvesting sites in eastern and western Norway, respectively. The western site had a more humid climate and a steeper terrain than the eastern site.


The mass loss after two years was significantly higher for needles (49–59%) than for twigs and fine roots (29–38%). Between sites, there was no significant difference between mass loss for neither needles nor twigs. Nitrogen accumulated in needles during the first year, but 35% of initial needle N had been released after three years. The initial needle and twig decomposition rate was dependent on soil moisture and topographic aspect. During the first three years, needle lignin concentrations retarded whereas P concentrations stimulated needle mass loss. For twigs, P concentrations stimulated mass loss, whereas higher soil temperatures reduced it.


Lignin and P concentrations of plant parts and soil temperature were the most important factors for the first three-year mass loss. The slow release of nutrients shows the importance of remaining needles, twigs and fine roots as a long-time nutrient source in the ecosystems under study.


Norway spruce Needles Twigs Fine roots Lignin Phosphorus Soil moisture Soil temperature 



The project was financed by the Research Council of Norway through project 192292/I10 (Ecological consequences of increased biomass removal from forests in Norway) and by the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (formerly Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute). We are grateful to the forest owners L. Istad (at Vindberg) and L. Blakstad (at Tjerne) for allowing us to use their forest properties, and to T. Økland, J.-F. Nordbakken and I. Røsberg for providing data on plot aspect and inclination. Thanks are due to Nicholas Clarke as project leader, R. Blanken, M. Ferbar, H. Meissner, H. Nyeggen, S. Skår, J. Světlik and G. Østreng for assistance in the field, and to M. Fongen, E. Grodås, J. E. Jacobsen, Chr. Kierulf, H. Meissner, and A. E. Nilsen for sample pretreatment and chemical analyses.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy ResearchÅsNorway

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