Litter fall and nutrient cycling in karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor F. Muell.) forest in relation to stand age



Annual litter fall, nutrient concentrations in litter components and annual weight of nutrients in litter fall have been estimated for karri forest stands aged 2, 6, 9 and 40 years and in mature forest. The weight of litter falling annually increases with stand age, ranging from 1.13 t/ha in 2-year-otd regeneration to 9.45 t/ha in mature forest. This increase is due mainly to greater amounts of twigs, bark and fruit falling in older stands. Leaf fait is relatively independent of stand age once the canopy of regenerating stands closes and the understorey has developed.

Concentrations of N, P, K, S and Mn in karri leaf litter differ significantly between sites and the differences appear to be related to stand age. Highest levels of these elements are found in karri leaf litter from the youngest stand and the concentrations decrease with increasing stand age. The amounts of annual litter fall and of nutrients cycling in litter are among the largest reported for Australian forests. In particular cycling of Ca, K and Mg in mature karri forest is greater than has been reported for any other eucalypt forest. Karri forest understorey plays a key rote in nutrient cycling in these ecosystems, contributing 30–70% of the weight of many of the nutrients in the leaf component of titter. Understorey leaf material is particularly important in the cycling of N, S and the micro-nutrients Cu and Zn.