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Proceeding Paper

Assessment of Leaf Litter Decomposition in a Pine and Beech Mixed Forest: Case Study in Northern Spain †

Department of Sciences, Public University of Navarre, 31006 Pamplona, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Presented at the 1st International Electronic Conference on Forests—Forests for a Better Future: Sustainability, Innovation, Interdisciplinarity, 24–27 June 2020; Available online:
Environ. Sci. Proc. 2021, 3(1), 25;
Published: 10 November 2020


The promotion of mixed forests represents an adaptation strategy in forest management to cope with climate change. The mixing of tree species with complementary ecological traits may modify forest functioning regarding productivity, stability, or resilience against disturbances. Litter decomposition is an important process for global carbon and nutrient cycles in terrestrial ecosystems, also affecting the functionality and sustainability of forests. Decomposition of mixed-leaf litters has become an active research area because it mimics the natural state of leaf litters in most forests. Thus, it is important to understand the factors controlling decomposition rates and nutrient cycles in mixed stands. In this study, we conducted a litter decomposition experiment in a Scots pine and European beech mixed forest in the province of Navarre (north of Spain). The effects of forest management (i.e., different thinning intensities), leaf litter types, and tree canopy on mass loss and chemical composition in such decomposing litter were analysed over a period of three years. Higher decomposition rates were observed in leaf litter mixtures, suggesting the existence of positive synergies between both pine and beech litter types. Moreover, a decomposition process was favoured under mixed-tree canopy patches. Regarding thinning treatments significant differences on decomposition rates disappeared at the end of the study period. Time influenced the nutrient concentration after the leaf litter incubation, with significant differences in the chemical composition between the different types of leaf litter. Higher Ca and Mg concentrations were found in beech litter types than in pine ones. An increase in certain nutrients throughout the decomposition process was observed due to immobilization by microorganisms (e.g., Mg in all leaf litter types, K only in beech leaves, P in thinned plots and under mixed canopy). Evaluating the overall response in mixed-leaf litters and the contribution of single species is necessary for understanding the litter decomposition and nutrient processes in mixed-forest ecosystems.

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MDPI and ACS Style

Candel-Pérez, D.; Imbert, J.B.; Unzu, M.; Blanco, J.A. Assessment of Leaf Litter Decomposition in a Pine and Beech Mixed Forest: Case Study in Northern Spain. Environ. Sci. Proc. 2021, 3, 25.

AMA Style

Candel-Pérez D, Imbert JB, Unzu M, Blanco JA. Assessment of Leaf Litter Decomposition in a Pine and Beech Mixed Forest: Case Study in Northern Spain. Environmental Sciences Proceedings. 2021; 3(1):25.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Candel-Pérez, David, J. Bosco Imbert, Maitane Unzu, and Juan A. Blanco. 2021. "Assessment of Leaf Litter Decomposition in a Pine and Beech Mixed Forest: Case Study in Northern Spain" Environmental Sciences Proceedings 3, no. 1: 25.

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