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Site Type Effect on Litter Decomposition Rates: A Three-Year Comparison of Decomposition Process between Spoil Heap and Forest Sites

1
Institute of Dendrology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Parkowa 5, PL-62-035 Kórnik, Poland
2
Department of Game Management and Forest Protection, Faculty of Forestry, Poznań University of Life Sciences, Wojska Polskiego 71c, PL-60-625 Poznań, Poland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2019, 10(4), 353; https://doi.org/10.3390/f10040353
Received: 17 March 2019 / Revised: 16 April 2019 / Accepted: 20 April 2019 / Published: 23 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Forest Ecology and Management)
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Abstract

Research Highlights: Direct comparison of leaf litter decomposition rates between harsh soil conditions of degraded lands and adjacent “closer to natural” forest areas has not been done before. Background and Objectives: We aimed to fill this knowledge gap by determining the differences in amounts of carbon and nitrogen released by species-specific litter depending on decomposition rates in various stand and habitat conditions, which enables selection of the most ecologically and economically appropriate (for fast soil organic layer development) tree species for afforestation of reclaimed lands. Materials and Methods: The study was conducted on the external spoil heap of the “Bełchatów” lignite mine (Central Poland) and adjacent forests. In December 2013, we established a litterbag experiment beneath the canopies of birch and pine stands. We used litter of Alnus glutinosa (Gaertn.), Betula pendula (Roth), Pinus sylvestris (L.), and Quercus robur (L.) collected ex situ, which we installed (after oven-drying) beneath the canopies of eight stands. The experiment lasted for three years (with sampling of three-month intervals). Results: Harsh soil conditions of degraded lands are unfavorable for litter mineralization. It was found that 23%–74% of decomposed materials were mineralized in spoil heap stands, whereas in forest stands these amounts ranged from 35%–83%. Litter of Q. robur in birch stands on the spoil heap is predicted to take 12 years longer for total decomposition than in forest stands of the same species. This hinders organic carbon turnover and could result in elongation of the time for full biological and economic reclamation of degraded lands. On the other hand, decomposition of relatively fast decomposable litter (A. glutinosa and B. pendula) in pine stands on the spoil heap was faster than in pine stands in forest sites (17% and 13% faster, respectively). We did not observe this trend for decomposition of more recalcitrant litter types of P. sylvestris and Q. robur. Conclusions: The results show the value of selective choice of tree species for afforestation of post-mining areas to accelerate the development of technogenic soil substrates. We recommend introducing all tree species studied in the cluster form of admixtures as all of them could bring some profits in ecological and economical reclamation. View Full-Text
Keywords: decomposition rate; litterbags; site type; stand type; spoil heap; soil development decomposition rate; litterbags; site type; stand type; spoil heap; soil development
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Horodecki, P.; Jagodziński, A.M. Site Type Effect on Litter Decomposition Rates: A Three-Year Comparison of Decomposition Process between Spoil Heap and Forest Sites. Forests 2019, 10, 353.

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