Autumn leaf fall and nutrient return in an old-growth and a second-growth forest in eastern Kentucky

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Autumn leaf fall was sampled in two watersheds, one containing an old-growth stand and the other a 35-yr-old second-growth stand of mixed mesophytic forest in eastern Kentucky. Total leaf fall and its composition did not differ between the two watersheds and averaged 291 g/m2. Weighted average nutrient concentrations exhibited spatial variation, which paralleled a previously established soil fertility gradient. Total nutrient return by autumn leaf fall was greatest on mid-slope sites of both watersheds, where soil pH and nutrient availability are greatest. The combination of bulk nutrient return by leaf fall and of recognized variation in leaf decay rates suggests that the soil fertility gradient within each stand may be tied to internal nutrient cycling characteristics of the vegetation.


"This investigation (no. 81-8-130) is connected with a project of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station and is published with approval of the director. This is publication no. 9 of Lilley Cornett Woods: Appalachian Research Station of Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky." (p. 552)