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The nutrient accumulation pattern and cycling in natural secondary forests in North China. A case study from the Caijiachuan watershed, Shanxi Province

Wei TX1, XJ Zhang1,2, JZ Zhu1

Key Laboratory for Soil and Water Conservation and Desertification Combating of the Ministry of Education, School of Soil and Water Conservation, Jixian Forest Ecosystem Research Station, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China.
Daxing High School attached to CNU, Beijing 102600, China.

* Corresponding Author:Address Correspondence to: WEI Tian-xing, e-mail:

Phyton-International Journal of Experimental Botany 2014, 83(all), 213-223.


In order to examine the nutrient content, and the distribution and accumulation patterns of individual nutrients in the natural secondary forests (NSFs), sample NSF plots were selected in the Caijiachuan watershed on the Loess Plateau. On the basis of a comprehensive field inventory to the NSFs in Caijiachuan watershed, a 40 m × 40 m sample plot was selected as the representative plot. Each tree plant was then measured to select the standard tree in accordance with a diameter-scale. For measurement of the biomass in the above-ground part of the tree, it was divided into parts and measured. The study measured the concentration of the 5 major macronutrients (namely N, P, K, Ca and Mg) and the 8 major micronutrients (namely Cd, Fe, Mn, Cu, Zn, Pb, Ni and B) in plant organs. An appropriate amount of the samples were weighed and exposed to H2SO4-H2O2 using the Kjeldahl heating digestion method. While N content was measured with the semi-micro determination method, P content was measured using vanadium molybdate yellow colorimetric method HNO3-HClO4 ICP heating digestion method was applied to determine the contents of Ca, Mg, K, Na, Fe, Cu, Zn, Mn, B, Cd, Pb, Ni. As for soil samples, corresponding approaches were employed to work out the contents of each of the above-mentioned nutrient elements. Among the tree, shrub and herbaceous layers, the content of macro-nutrients follows the sequence of Ca > N > K > Mg > P, compared with their counterpart of K > N > Ca > P > Mg in the litter layer. For the micronutrient contents, similar sequences (i.e., Fe > Mn > Zn > B > Cu > Pb > Ni > Cd) were observed in the tree, shrub and litter layers; whereas the herbaceous layer demonstrated a different sequence of Fe > Mn > B > Zn > Cu > Pb > Ni > Cd. Within the NSF ecosystem, total accumulation of the 5 major macronutrients (excluding that in the soil) reached 1089.82 kg/ha, of which the tree layer took up the largest share, 40.82%, followed in turn by the shrub layer (31.28%), the herbaceous layer (12.55%) and the litter layer (15.36%). In terms of nutrient-concentration in the plant organs within the tree layer, the overall sequence can be expressed as branches > roots > wood > bark > leaves. The total accumulation of the 5 major macro-nutrient in the soil reached 634.97 t/ha. In terms of the accumulation coefficients in each of the layers, the general pattern can be summed up as: shrub layer > tree layer > herbaceous layer, and N > P > Ca > K > Mg. In terms of the plant organ accumulation coefficients at the tree layer, the sequence was leaves > branches > roots > bark > wood. As for the accumulation coefficients of the micronutrients, the overall sequences for the tree layer, the shrub layer and the herbaceous layer can be listed as Cd > B > Zn > Cu > Mn > Ni > Pb > Fe; Cd > B > Zn > Mn > Cu > Ni > Pb > Fe and Cd > B > Mn > Zn > Cu > Ni > Pb > Fe, respectively. The study also revealed that the macronutrients that are absorbed, assimilated and returned by the NSF stand annually reached 99.054 kg/(ha·year), 49.155 kg/(ha·year) and 49.899 kg/(ha·year), respectively, demonstrating a well-balanced state of nutrient cycling. With an average of 0.0013, the absorbance index of the macro-nutrients was ranked in the following sequence, N > P > K > Ca > Mg; whereas their utilization and cycling indexes were respectively sequenced as K > P > N > Mg > Ca and K > P > N > Mg > Ca. For the micronutrients the corresponding annual figures were 117.35 g/(ha·year), 50.96 g/(ha·year) and 66.39 g/(ha·year), respectively. The micronutrients, as a whole, showed a relatively small absorbance index (e.g., Cd was the largest=0.0036). The average utilization index of all the microelements was 0.12.


Cite This Article

TX, W., Zhang, X., Zhu, J. (2014). The nutrient accumulation pattern and cycling in natural secondary forests in North China. A case study from the Caijiachuan watershed, Shanxi Province. Phyton-International Journal of Experimental Botany, 83(all), 213–223.


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