This study compared litter production, litter decomposition and nutrient return in pure and mixed species plantations. Dry weight and N, P, K, Ca, Mg quantities in the litterfall were measured in one pure Cunninghamia lanceolata plantation (PC) and two mixed-species plantations of C. lanceolata with Alnus cremastogyne (MCA) and Kalopanax septemlobus (MCK) in subtropical China. Covering 6 years of observations, mean annual litter production of MCA (4.97 Mg·ha−1) and MCK (3.97 Mg·ha−1) was significantly higher than that of PC (3.46 Mg·ha−1). Broadleaved trees contributed 42% of the total litter production in MCA and 31% in MCK. Introduction of broadleaved tree species had no significant effect on litterfall pattern. Total litterfall was greatest in the dry season from November to March. Nutrient returns to the forest floor through leaf litter were significantly higher in both MCA and MCK than in PC (P < 0.05). The amounts of N, K, and Mg returned to the forest floor through leaf litter were highest in the MCA, and P and Ca returns were highest in the MCK. Percent contribution of broadleaf litter to total nutrient returns ranged from 41.7% to 86.9% in MCA and from 49.3% to 74.8% in MCK. The decomposition rate of individual leaf litter increased in the order: C. lanceolata < K. septemlobus < A. cremastogyne. Litter mixing had a positive effect on decomposition rate of the more recalcitrant litter and promoted nutrient return. Relative to mass loss of A. cremastogyne decomposing alone, higher mass loss of the mixture of C. lanceolata and A. cremastogyne was observed after 330 days of decomposition. These results indicate that mixed plantations of different tree species have advantages over monospecific plantations with regards to nutrient fluxes and these advantages have relevance to restoration of degraded sites.
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This study was supported by Chinese Academy of Sciences Program (KZCX2-YW-405) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (30470303 and 30590381-07). We are grateful to Xiuyong Zhang for help in collecting samples. We also thank J. A. Helms from University of California at Berkeley for professionally editing this manuscript, and Rachel Standish from Murdoch University, Western Australia, and other two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions for improving this manuscript.
Responsible Editor: Alfonso Escudero.
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Wang, Q., Wang, S., Fan, B. et al. Litter production, leaf litter decomposition and nutrient return in Cunninghamia lanceolata plantations in south China: effect of planting conifers with broadleaved species. Plant Soil 297, 201–211 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-007-9333-2