Canadian Forest Service Publications

Patterns of decomposition and carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus dynamics of litter in upland forest and peatland sites in central Canada. 2005. Moore, T.R.; Trofymow, J.A.; Siltanen, M.; Prescott, C.; Canadian Intersite Decomposition Experiment Working Group. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 35: 133-142.

Year: 2005

Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 25348

Language: English

Availability: PDF (download)

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We tested whether upland or peatland location affected rates of litter decomposition and nutrient dynamics. We examined the patterns of mass loss and carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) gain, retention, or loss in 11 forest tissues over 6 years at three upland and three peatland sites in the Low Boreal, High Boreal, and Low Subarctic zones of central Canada. After 6 years of decomposition, the average litter mass remaining ranged from 35% for fescue grass to 75% for western redcedar needles and 94% for wood blocks placed on the soil surface, with exponential decay coefficients (k) of –0.16, –0.05, and –0.01, respectively. At one pair of sites, the mass remaining and the k values indicated that faster decomposition occurred in the upland site than in the nearby peatland site. The reverse was the case in a second pair. No overall pattern was apparent in the third. In general, Douglas-fir needles decomposed significantly faster in peatland than upland sites, and the reverse pattern occurred for bracken fern. Most foliar litters retained their original N mass and lost P as they decomposed. There were few major differences between N and P dynamics in litters decomposing at upland and peatland sites, though N and P retention in some cases was greater at the peatland sites. These results suggest that longer term (>6 years) differences in decomposition rate and differences in litter quality account for larger C accumulation in peatland than in upland soils.