Calcium in decomposing foliar litter - A synthesis for boreal and temperate coniferous forests

We have synthesized available data for calcium (Ca) dynamics in decomposing foliar litter of mainly pine (Pinus), spruce (Picea), and birch (Betula) species to determine patterns of Ca concentration with climate in newly shed litter and its dynamics in decomposing litter as well as a possible role for Ca as regards limit values. Initial Ca concentration was negatively related to mean annual precipitation (MAP) with different relationships among genera. A limited data set showed a positive relationship across species (p < 0.05) to extractable Ca in soil. In paired stands, litter of both Norway spruce (Picea abies) and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) had higher Ca concentrations than Scots pine (Pinus silvestris), Norway spruce litter even twice as high. Relationships between initial concentrations of Ca and those of other nutrients appeared to be dominated by the positive ones to potassium (K) and magnesium (Mg) and specifically for deciduous litter there was a negative relationship to nitrogen (N).

In decomposing litter, Ca concentration followed a negative quadratic (Ca =a + t−t2) function and had a maximum, which was variable. The Ca maximum concentration during decomposition was positively related to initial Ca concentration both within and among species. Separate linear relationships based on species were combined into one, in common for all investigated species and genera (R2 =0.914, n= 63, p < 0.001).

Limit values for decomposition were positively related to maximum Ca concentration at p < 0.05 with separate functions for pine and spruce litter. Calcium net release started directly after the incubation and was linear to accumulated mass loss of litter, giving a slope coefficient for each study. The net release rates were linear to initial Ca concentration both within and across species/genera. All studies combined gave a negative linear relationship (R2=0.894, n= 67, p < 0.001).

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