Plant and Soil

, Volume 423, Issue 1–2, pp 141–155 | Cite as

Understanding the enhanced litter decomposition of mixed-species plantations of Eucalyptus and Acacia mangium

  • Felipe Martini SantosEmail author
  • Fabiano de Carvalho Balieiro
  • Marcelo Antoniol Fontes
  • Guilherme Montandon ChaerEmail author
Regular Article


Background and aims

Soil microbial-derived litter decomposition represents an important step in the global carbon and nutrient cycling and, at the local level, is primarily driven by litter chemistry. Here, we assessed how mixed-species plantations with Eucalyptus urograndis and Acacia mangium could be a key to enhancing litter production, decomposition, and soil microbial activity.


The relationships between litter decomposition and litter quality and quantity were compared among 6-year-old monocultures of E. urograndis and A. mangium (E100+N and A100, respectively) and a mixed plantation of both species (E50A50). Additionally, we evaluated soil microbial biomass carbon (MBC) and nitrogen (MBN), soil basal respiration (SBR), soil enzymes and the N mineralization potential.


The return to soil of N via litterfall in E50A50 was greater than E100+N, while the return of P in E100+N and E50A50 were higher than A100. The decomposition rate in A100 was slower than in the E50A50 and E100+N. The microbial activity, represented by soil enzyme activities (proteases and N-acetyl-β-glucosaminidases), was consistently higher in E50A50 than in A100.


The E50A50 presented a more balanced supply of N and P associated to a better structural quality of the litter for microbial metabolism, with synergic reflections on decomposition rates and release of nitrogen.


Intercropping N2-fixing trees Nutrient cycling N:P stoichiometry Enzyme activity Decomposer starvation 



Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy


Soil microbial biomass carbon


Soil microbial biomass nitrogen




Metabolic quotient


Soil basal respiration



We are grateful to Dr. Francy J. G. Lisboa for helpful comments on this work. We thank the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP - Process number: 2010/16623-9) and the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ) for the financial support (E26/110.821/2010). We also thank Suzano Papel and Celulose SA, represented by Dr. José Luiz Gava, for the donation of Eucalyptus urograndis seedlings for this experiment. The first author thanks the Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ciências Ambientais e Florestais (PPGCAF) of the Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro (UFRRJ) and the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) for the scholarships.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Felipe Martini Santos
    • 1
    Email author
  • Fabiano de Carvalho Balieiro
    • 2
  • Marcelo Antoniol Fontes
    • 3
  • Guilherme Montandon Chaer
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Departamento de SilviculturaUniversidade Federal Rural do Rio de JaneiroSeropédicaBrazil
  2. 2.Embrapa SolosRio de JaneiroBrazil
  3. 3.Embrapa AgrobiologiaSeropédicaBrazil

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