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Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726-2398
Phone: (608) 231-9200
Fax: (608) 231-9592
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Opening the Forest Canopy Slows Leaf Decomposition and Nutrient Cycling

D. Jean Lodge measuring the extent of mushroom mycelia on the forest floor three months after a simulated hurricane treatment in which limbs and leaves were trimmed from the canopy and deposited on the forest floor in the Luquillo Experimental Forest of Puerto Rico. Josh Brown, University of New Hampshire
D. Jean Lodge measuring the extent of mushroom mycelia on the forest floor three months after a simulated hurricane treatment in which limbs and leaves were trimmed from the canopy and deposited on the forest floor in the Luquillo Experimental Forest of Puerto Rico. Josh Brown, University of New Hampshire
Snapshot: Forest canopies are opened by thinning, logging operations, and storms. Results of a simulated hurricane experiment showed canopy opening had the greatest effect in slowing leaf decomposition and nutrient release. Losses of nitrogen to ground water only occurred when the limbs and leaves were transferred from the canopy to the forest floor.
Summary:

Opening a forest, whether by storm damage, tree harvesting, or thinning, dries the forest floor and reduces the ability of the litter layer to retain mineral nutrients needed for tree growth. A simulated hurricane experiment in the Luquillo Experimental Forest of Puerto Rico showed that less phosphorus was conserved by fungi when the canopy was opened. The number of fungal connections between litter layers and the rate of leaf decomposition were also reduced when the canopy was opened. Nitrogen was leached into the ground water only in the simulated hurricane treatment in which limbs and leaves were transferred from the canopy to the forest floor. Leaching of nitrogen into groundwater in the simulated hurricane treatment closely matched the timing and magnitude of nitrogen transfers to ground water and losses from the ecosystem via streams that was observed after Hurricanes Hugo and George. Surprisingly, the soil microbial community responded more to differences in temperature and rainfall between years than to the canopy and debris addition treatments. This suggests that soil microbes are highly sensitive to climate change.
Princpal Investigator(s):
 Lodge, D. Jean


Research Location:
  • Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico


Forest Service Partners:
  • Dr. Grizelle Gonzalez, IITF


External Partners:
  • Dr. Aaron Shiels, US Fish & Wildlife, Hilo, Hawaii
  • Dr. Dr. Jess K. Zimmerman, Univ. of Puerto Rico
  • Dr. Jose Perez-Jimenez, Univ. of Turabo, Puerto Rico
  • Dr. Marirosa Molina, EPA, Athens, GA
  • Dr. Michael Willig, Univ. of Connecticut
  • Dr. Sharon A. Cantrell, Univ. del Turabo in Puerto Rico

Fiscal Year: 2015
Highlight ID: 615
 
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