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Nutrient accessions in a mixed conifer-angiosperm forest in northern New Zealand

Enright, N.J.ORCID: 0000-0003-2979-4505 (2001) Nutrient accessions in a mixed conifer-angiosperm forest in northern New Zealand. Austral Ecology, 26 (6). pp. 618-629.

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Nutrient accessions in litterfall are described for a mixed conifer (mostly Agathis australis D.Don (Lindl.), New Zealand kauri) and angiosperm temperate forest in northern New Zealand to determine the relative contributions to nutrient cycling of the conifer and angiosperm components of the forest. Concentrations for many nutrients were significantly lower in conifer litterfall fractions than for equivalent angiosperm fractions. Angiosperm leaves had concentrations of N and P twice those found in conifer leaf fall. Despite a large contribution to litterfall from weight, conifer reproductive parts (mostly cone scales) were very low in nutrients (especially N, P and Ca). Whereas angiosperm litterfall constituted < 45% of total litterfall by weight, nutrient accessions from the angiosperm component accounted for 45–60% of total nutrient accessions and the conifer fraction for only 30–45%, almost the exact reverse of their contributions to litterfall by weight. Of the macronutrients, P (3 kg ha–1 year–1) showed the lowest rate of accession in litterfall while Ca (84 kg ha–1 year–1) showed the highest. Faunal detritus, although < 1% of total litterfall by weight, contributed 10% of total P and 4% of total N reaching the forest floor via the litterfall pathway each year. The C:N and C:P ratios in litterfall and litterstore were all well above the levels at which mineralization is likely to occur. Based on the estimated residence times, long-term immobilization was more likely for N than for P. The annual pattern of nutrient accessions differed for the two components, with angiosperm accessions highest in spring and summer, and conifer accessions highest in autumn, due largely to a peak in litterfall of reproductive parts at that time of year. It is argued that differences in litter quality, decomposition rates and spatial and temporal patterns of litterfall for angiosperm versus conifer components of the forest, in conjunction with long-term disturbance regimes, may contribute to conifer–angiosperm coexistence.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Inc
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