Decomposition of secondary compounds from needle litter of Scots pine grown under elevated CO2 and O3


Pirjo Kainulainen, tel. +358 17 163193, fax +358 17 163230, e-mail:


Elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and ozone (O3) concentrations have both been shown to affect plant tissue quality, which in turn could affect litter decomposition and carbon (C) and nutrient cycling. In order to evaluate effects of climate change on litter chemistry, needle litter was collected from Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) saplings exposed to elevated CO2 or O3 concentration and their combination over three growing seasons in open-top chambers. The decomposition of needle litter was followed for 19 months in a pine forest. During decomposition, needle samples for secondary compound analysis were collected and the mass loss of needles was followed. Main nutrients and total phenolics were analysed from litter in the beginning and at the end of the experiment. After 19-month decomposition, the accumulated mass loss was about 34%; however, no significant differences were found in decomposition rates of needle litter between various treatments. Concentrations of total monoterpenes were about 4%, total resin acids 21% and total phenolics 14% of the initial concentrations in litter after 19-month decomposition. In the beginning of litter decomposition, concentrations of individual monoterpenes –α-pinene and β-pinene – were significantly higher in needle litter grown under elevated CO2. However, concentrations of total monoterpenes during the whole decomposition period were not significantly affected by CO2 or O3 treatments. Concentrations of some individual and total resin acids were higher in needle litter grown under elevated CO2 or O3 than under ambient air. There were no significant differences in concentrations of total phenolics as well as nitrogen (N) and the main nutrient concentrations between treatments during decomposition. High concentrations of monoterpenes and resin acids in needles might slightly delay C recycling in forest soils. It is concluded that elevated CO2 and O3 concentrations do not have remarkable impacts on litter decomposition processes in Scots pine forests.