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Revista chilena de historia natural

Print version ISSN 0716-078X


LUSK, CHRISTOPHER H. et al. Decomposition of leaf litter of Pinus radiata and three native tree species. Rev. chil. hist. nat. [online]. 2001, vol.74, n.3, pp.705-710. ISSN 0716-078X.

Recent decades have seen widespread conversion of native forests, shrublands and farmland in south-central Chile to exotic tree plantations. However, little is known about the effects of these wholesale landuse changes on ecosystem properties and processes, with the notable exception of studies of site water balance. In this brief communication, we present the results of a comparative study of decomposition of leaf litter of Pinus radiata and three common native tree species, beneath exotic and native woody vegetation in south-central Chile. We aimed to assess the nutrient cycling implications of substitution or invasion of native vegetation by P. radiata. Litter samples of the four species were incubated in both environments, registering the percentage of dry weight loss after two and six months. Decomposition rates of all species were much faster during the first two months of incubation than during the four subsequent months. At both dates there were significant differences between species and between sites, with faster decomposition of all species beneath P. radiata. There was no evidence of interaction between species and site. After six months, species rank order for the percentage of weight loss was Nothofagus obliqua > P. radiata > Peumus boldus > Cryptocarya alba. Interspecific variation in decomposition rates was more closely correlated with specific leaf area than with litter nitrogen content. Given that litter of P. radiata decomposed slower than that of the deciduous N. obliqua, but faster than the sclerophyll evergreens, the consequences of substitution or invasion for decomposition processes are likely to depend on the composition of the native vegetation in question

Keywords : exotic plantations; leaf nitrogen; Nothofagus; nutrient cycling; specific leaf area.

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