Canadian Forest Service Publications

Litter quality and its potential effect on decay rates of materials from Canadian forests. 1995. Trofymow, J.A.; Preston, C.M; Prescott, C.E. Water, Air and Soil Pollution 82: 215-226.

Year: 1995

Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 4166

Language: English

Availability: Order paper copy (free)

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Decomposition is influenced by a wide array of factors including macroclimate, microclimate, soil biota, soil nutrients, substrate piece size and substrate quality. To separate the influence of some of these factors a 10-year study, the Canadian Intersite Decomposition Experiment, was established in 1992 to measure the decay of 11 standard litter types on a range of forest types at 21 sites across Canada. As part of the study we analyzed the initial elemental contents (N, P, S, K, Ca, Mg) and C fractions (extractables, cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin) by 13C NMR and wet chemical proximate analysis in a total of 37 primarily foliar litter types representative of the range of species found at the different CIDET sites. Litter types especially non-conifer species varied greatly in their qualities. Principal component analyses showed that the litter types could be distinguished by the elemental macronutrient contents through the ratio of N+P+K:S, by proximate chemical analyses through the ratio of water soluble:acid fractions, and by NMR through the ratio of O-alkyl:alkyl C. Litter quality data were used in three simple models of litter decay to predict how the mass loss of the different litter types could vary. Two models using a linear or single exponential decay equation and litter lignin and N content predicted a 2-5 fold difference in total mass loss for the different litter types. A third model using a summed exponential decay equation for three chemical fractions and a ligno-cellulose index predicted that for all but one litter type, variation in mass loss between types would be less than a 20%.