Category: Ecological Research
Title: Changes in Forest Floor Organic Matter and Nutrient Content Following Clear Cutting in Northern Hardwoods
Author: * Covington, W.W.
Subject: Clear cutting, Nutrient cycling, Succession
Abstract: A secondary succession sequence of 14 northern hardwoods stands was sampled for forest floor organic matter and nutrient content. During the first 15 yr following clear cutting, the forest floor decreased by 30.7 Mg/ha, a decline of over 50(percent). The decrease in the forest floor and slahs (logging residue) may be greater than the increase in the living biomass. During the next 50 yr the forest floor increased by 28.0 Mh/ha and by year 64 was within 5(percent) of an asymptote of 56.0 Mg/ha. Nutrients were analyzed in 6 of the 14 stands. Magnesium, potassium, and nitrogen concentrations showed no successional pattern. However, calcium concentrations were significantly higher in the stands in which forest floor mass was low. The initial decrease in forst floor mass is attributed to lower leaf and wood litter fall and to mroe rapid decay resulting from higher temperature, moisture content, and nutrient levels and to early successional litter being more easily decomposed. The recovery of the forest floor is explained primarily as resulting from the rapid increase in the quantity and diameter of wood litter fall. JABOWA, the northern hardwood forest growth stimulator, predicts a maximum rate of increase in woody litter by years 10-20 with a lveling off by years 30-50. An apparent asynchrony in function of the forest floor and slash as nutrient sources may be important to the recovery process. During the first 15 yr the forest floor is a major source of nutrients, releasing a net amount of approximately 800 kg/ha of nitrogen. During this period nitrogen immobilization in the decay of slash may account for as much as one-half of the nitrogen released from the forest floor. After year 15 the forest floor is no longer a source but a sink for nutrients as nutrients and organic matter accumulate. By year 15 the slash probably shifts in function from a sink to a source, providing nitrogen for the continuing rapid nitrogen accumulation in vegetation beyond year 15.
Identifier: 62 (1):41-48
Publisher: Ecological Society of America, http://www.esa.org