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Litterfall, decomposition and nutrient release of Shorea robusta and Tectona grandis in a sub-tropical forest of West Bengal, Eastern India

Abstract

We studied leaf litter fall, decomposition and nutrient release patterns of Shorea robusta and Tectona grandis by using a litter bag technique to better understand the release pattern of nutrients to soil from leaf litter. Annual litterfall varied from 13.40 ± 2.56 t ha−1 a−1 for S. robusta to 11.03 ± 3.72 t ha−1 a−1 for T. grandis and the decay constant (k) of decomposed leaf litter was distinctly higher for T. grandis (2.70 ± 0.50 a−1) compared to S. robusta (2.41 ± 0.30 a−1). Biomass loss was positively correlated with the initial litter C, WSC, C/N and ash content in S. robusta and N, P and K concentration for T. grandis. Biomass was negatively correlated with lignin and L/N ratio for S. robusta and L, WSC, L/N and C/N ratio for T. grandis (P < 0.01). Nutrient use efficiency (NUE) and nutrient accumulation index (NAI) of S. robusta was higher than for T. grandis. The retranslocation of bioelements from senescent leaves ranked as P > N > K. Annual N, P and K input to soil through litterfall differed significantly between the two species in the following order: N>K>P. S. robusta was superior in terms of K and P return and T. grandis was superior in terms of N return. The two tree species showed a similar patterns of nutrient release (K > P > N) during decomposition of their leaf litter. Nutrients of N, K and P were the primary limiting nutrients returned to soil through litterfall with important roles in soil fertility and forest productivity.

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Acknowledgments

This work is part of Ph.D. programme at Department of Environmental Science, West Bengal, India. The District Forest Officer, Burdwan, West Bengal is gratefully acknowledged for the permission to carry out the research work in the protected area. Also thanks to my research guide Professor Naba Kumar Mondal and the technical staff of the Department of Environmental Science, The University of Burdwan, Burdwan, West Bengal, India. The authors express their thanks to The University of Burdwan for providing financial support in the form of Ph.D. work (2011-12/2).

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Correspondence to Naba Kumar Mondal.

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Project funding: This work was supported by The University of Burdwan in the form of Ph.D. work (2011-12/2).

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Corresponding editor: Yu Lei

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Das, C., Mondal, N.K. Litterfall, decomposition and nutrient release of Shorea robusta and Tectona grandis in a sub-tropical forest of West Bengal, Eastern India. J. For. Res. 27, 1055–1065 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11676-016-0208-3

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Keywords

  • Decay constant
  • Lignin
  • Litterfall
  • Nutrient return
  • Decomposition
  • Nutrient use efficiency