Effect of nitrogen addition and litter removal on understory vegetation, soil mesofauna, and litter decomposition in loblolly pine plantations in subtropical Argentina
Publication date: 1 December 2018
Source: Forest Ecology and Management, Volume 429
Author(s): C.P. Trentini, M. Villagra, D. Gómez Pámies, V. Bernava Laborde, J.C. Bedano, P.I. Campanello
Loblolly pine monocultures have been increasingly expanding in the Atlantic Forest of South America especially in northern Argentina. Pine plantations can modify understory vegetation and soil characteristics due to the management practices and to the dense mulch of pine needles that develop in the forest floor that could affect soil biota and ecosystem processes. Nitrogen (N) addition as expected as atmospheric deposition can also contribute to these changes. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of litter removal and low levels of N addition on understory regeneration, soil mesofauna abundance, and leaf litter decomposition. For this purpose, a completely randomized block design was used. Nitrogen addition had significant effects on understory regeneration promoting creeping herbs, graminoids and shrubs life forms affecting tree establishment and growth. Litter removal treatment showed the same pattern but only promoting the creeping herbs that could also have affected tree species. Decomposition decreased due to litter removal and was slightly increased by N addition. The addition of N decreased the abundance of mesofauna in the mulch, especially Symphypleone (a suborder of Collembola), but the abundance of the soil communities was not affected. Litter removal had a strong impact on these communities because most individuals and species of the mesofauna are present in the litter and not in the soil. This is one of the first studies analyzing the effect of low amounts of N addition and litter removal in subtropical pine plantations and contribute to understand potential impacts of increasing N deposition on biodiversity and soil processes, and to select organisms that may help as bioindicators in assessing impacts on ecological functions in productive ecosystems.
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