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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 56 No. 3, p. 914-920
    Received: Mar 7, 1991

    * Corresponding author(s):
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Nitrogen and Phosphorus Release from Decomposing Needles of Southern Pine Plantations

  1. P. J. Polglase,
  2. E. J. Jokela  and
  3. N. B. Comerford
  1. Dep. of Forestry, 118 Newins-Ziegler Hall, Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-0303
    Dep. of Soil Science, 2169 McCarty Hall, Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, Fl 32611-0303



Fertilizer application and weed-control treatments have increased biomass accumulation of loblolly (Pinus taeda L.) and slash pines (P. elliottii Engelm. var. elliottii) in north-central Florida. While the effects of these treatments have been immediate, the long-term influences on rates of nutrient cycling are unknown. This study measured rates of mass loss and changes in N and P contents in Oi horizon needles decomposing in the laboratory, and in Oi, Oe1, and Oe2 horizon needles decomposing in situ (litterbag study). The quality of organic-matter substrates in needles (determined by laboratory incubation) was increased by both weed-control and fertilizer treatments (P < 0.05), and litter quality of loblolly pine was greater than that of slash pine. However, these effects were not manifest in the field study. Across all treatments, an average of 31% of the original organic matter was lost after 1 yr of decomposition in situ. Generally, N was immobilized into Oi horizon needles but was released in modest amounts (<15% yr−1) from Oe1 and Oe2 horizon needles. In contrast, substantial release of P from Oi horizon needles (>35% yr−1) was followed by smaller release from Oe1 and Oe2 horizon needles (< 15% yr−1). More P was cycled per unit of organic matter in fertilized than nonfertilized plots, and loblolly pine cycled more P than slash pine. Changes in total P content of needles during decomposition were accounted for by changes in the pool of inorganic P. The rapid recycling of P in fertilized plots has the potential to enhance long-term productivity beyond the immediately beneficial effects derived from fertilizer uptake.

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