Plant and Soil

, Volume 318, Issue 1–2, pp 217–228 | Cite as

Factors regulating litter mass loss and lignin degradation in late decomposition stages

  • Amalia Virzo De Santo
  • Anna De Marco
  • Angelo Fierro
  • Björn Berg
  • Flora A. Rutigliano
Regular Article


We studied late-stages decomposition of four types of coniferous needle and three types of deciduous leaf litter at two sites, one nutrient-poor boreal and one nutrient-rich temperate. The late stage was identified by that reached by litters at the onset of net loss of lignin mass, i.e. at about 1 year after the incubation when the highest amount of lignin had been detected; the study extended over the following 2 year period. Decomposition rates were significantly lower at the boreal than at the temperate site and did not differ between needle litter and leaf litter. In the boreal forest: (1) mass-loss was positively correlated with N and Mn release, (2) Mn concentration at the start of the late stage was positively correlated with lignin decay, (3) Ca concentration was negatively correlated to litter mass loss and lignin decay. In the temperate forest neither lignin, N, Mn, and Ca concentration at the start of the late stage, nor their dynamics were related to litter decomposition rates and lignin decay. In leaf litter mass-loss and lignin decay were positively correlated with N and Ca release and with Ca concentration. In needle litter mass-loss was positively correlated to Mn release and N concentration negatively with lignin decay. We concluded that Ca, N and Mn have different roles in controlling lignin decay depending on type of litter and site conditions.


Litter Mn N and Ca concentrations Temperate forest Boreal forest Deciduous leaf litter Coniferous needle litter 



This work was carried out while Björn Berg was a guest scientist at the Department of Structural and Functional Biology, University of Naples Federico II, financed by the program “Incentivazione alla mobilità di studiosi stranieri e italiani residenti all’estero”. The research was funded by Ministero dell’Università e della Ricerca-Italy. Dr. Paola Vittozzi is gratefully acknowledged for lignin analyses.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amalia Virzo De Santo
    • 1
  • Anna De Marco
    • 1
  • Angelo Fierro
    • 1
  • Björn Berg
    • 1
  • Flora A. Rutigliano
    • 2
  1. 1.Dipartimento Biologia Strutturale e FunzionaleComplesso UniversitarioNapoliItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze AmbientaliSeconda Università degli Studi di Napoli via Vivaldi 43CasertaItaly

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