Effects of mixing pine and broadleaved tree/shrub litter on decomposition and N dynamics in laboratory microcosms.
This study was carried out to compare the ecological function of exotic pine (Pinus radiata - Pr) and native pine (Pinus tabulaeformis - Pt) in terms of litter decomposition and its related N dynamics and to evaluate if the presence of broad-leaved tree species (Cercidiphyllum japonicum - Cj) or shrub species (Ostryopsis davidiana - Od) litter would promote the decomposition of pine needles and N cycling. Mass remaining, N release of the four single-species litters and mixed-species (Pt+Cj; Pr+Cj; Pt+Od; Pr+Od) litters and soil N dynamics were measured at microcosm scale during an 84-day incubation period. The Pt and Pr litter, with poorer substrate quality, indicated slower decomposition rates than did the Cj and Od litter. Due to their high C/N ratios, the N mass of Pt and Pr litter continuously increased during the early stage of decomposition, which showed that Pt and Pr litter immobilized exogenous N by microbes. No significant differences of soil inorganic, dissolved organic and microbial biomass N were found between the Pt and Pr microcosm at each sampling. The results showed that the exotic Pr performed similar ecological function to the native Pt in terms of litter decomposition and N dynamics during the early stage. The presence of Cj or Od litter increased the decomposition rates of pine needle litter and also dramatically increased soil N availability. So it is feasible for plantation managers to consider the use of Cj as an ameliorative species or to retain Od in pine plantations to promote the decomposition of pine litter and increase nutrient circulation. The results also suggested that different species litters induced different soil dissolved organic nitrogen (DON). As a major soluble N pool in soil, DON developed a different changing tendency over time compared with inorganic N, and should be included into soil N dynamic under the condition of our study.