Nutrients return from leaves and litterfall in a mediterranean cork oak (Quercus suber L.) forest in southwestern Spain

  • Enrique AndiviaEmail author
  • Manuel Fernández
  • Javier Vázquez-Piqué
  • Aranzazu González-Pérez
  • Raúl Tapias
Original Paper


The knowledge of the cycle of nutrients is fundamental for the correct comprehension of the tree–soil relationship and for an adequate forest management. In order to analyse the nutrients return from leaves and litterfall in a Mediterranean cork oak forest in southwestern Spain, 12 trees were randomly selected and litterfall collected for 2 years. Samples were taken monthly and separated in different fractions (leaves, twigs, catkins, acorns and miscellaneous), then leaves nutrients were analyzed. Simultaneously, we analyzed the nutrient content of living leaves from the same trees in each season during 1 year. The analyzed nutrients were C, N, P, K, Ca, Mg, Fe, Mn, S, Cu, Zn and Mo. Annual patterns of each nutrient in fallen leaves were characterized and compared with seasonal values of these nutrients in living leaves. Leaves fall has two annual maximum, first and most important in spring around April coinciding with renewal of foliar cover and second around October. Main concentration patterns of N, P and K are related with phenological patterns, in consequence minimum concentration in leaves fall were obtained in periods of growing and maximum litterfall. Concentrations of Ca, Fe and Mn increase with the age of the leaves and maximum concentrations were obtained before periods of maximum litterfall while concentrations of Cu, Mo and Mg stay stable. Seasonal analysis of nutrients in living leaves collected from the same trees in four different periods of the year allowed to corroborate the patterns of leaves fall and the probable osmotic function of K.


Quercus suber Litterfall Nutrients cycling Nutrients return 



This work has been partially financed by the projects SUBERWOOD (V EU Framework Program, QLK5-CT-2001-007001), MEDCRE (Plan Nacional I+D+I, 2005, AGL2005-04971) and SUM2006-00026 (Plan Nacional de I+D, Sumideros Agroforestales de efecto invernadero, 2007–2009). We gratefully acknowledge the collaboration of the Environmental Agency of Huelva and the municipality of Hinojos (Huelva) and the support in field and laboratory work of Celia, Raúl, Nico, Dani and Felipe. First author is benefiting from a doctoral grant from the University of Huelva.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Enrique Andivia
    • 1
    Email author
  • Manuel Fernández
    • 1
  • Javier Vázquez-Piqué
    • 1
  • Aranzazu González-Pérez
    • 1
  • Raúl Tapias
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Forest SciencesUniversity of HuelvaHuelvaSpain

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