Organic Matter

NPL01 Litterfall inputs to soil surface in watersheds with different fire treatments


Litter falling to the soil surface of tallgrass prairie was measured using 5 cm x 100 cm litterfall troughs. Mass, nitrogen, and phosphorus content were measured monthly or seasonally. Variables of interest include burning frequency and soil type.

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To measure the seasonality and mass of litterfall in the two soil series (Tully and Florence) and a hill-slope site on the LTER watersheds, and to estimate the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus transferred to the soil by this means.


Location of Sampling Stations: Adjacent to aboveground biomass sampling sites on the following watersheds: Ungrazed, unburned Florence: 020B (grid N-28); Ungrazed, unburned Tully: 020B (N-29); Ungrazed, unburned hill-slope: 020B (N-28); Ungrazed, annually burned Florence - 2 sites: 001D (R-27); Ungrazed, annually burned Tully: 001D (S-28); Ungrazed, annually burned, hill-slope: 001D (S-28); Ungrazed, annually burned Tully: 001C (N-31); Grazed, annually burned Tully: N01B (N/0-23); Grazed, 4 yr. burn, Tully: N04D (K/L-23); Ungrazed, 4 yr. burn Florence: 004B (H-27/28); Ungrazed, 4 yr. burn Tully: 004B (F-29); Ungrazed, 4 yr. burn hill-slope: 004B (F-29).

Frequency of Sampling: Monthly beginning on June 9, 1981 and ending December 11, 1990.

Variable Measured: Total dry weight of material obtained in litterfall collectors per collecting period and total-N and total-P gram dry weight.

Methods: At each site, six or either collectors were systematically arranged about 2 m apart along a 15 m transect marked by a steel conduit stake painted red and yellow. The collector was a split 2” PVC pipe (100 cm X 5.6 cm) with screened ends to allow for drainage. Special care was used to empty these troughs. Suspended litter above the traps can function as 'rakes' and remove materials from troughs. Conversely the screen ends of the troughs can also act as rakes and remove suspended litter as the traps are pulled and cleaned. The best procedure in cleaning these traps was to pull them straight out (as opposed to at an angle above the soil), and use one hand to shield the top of the troughs from suspended litter. Traps were replaced by inserting the tubes upside-down, and turning the troughs over only when they are in place.

Further details concerning field collection are located in Bushnell Rm 218 in the 'Copy of Field Notes' file.

Collection material was dried to constant weight at 70°C. Nitrogen and phosphorus content were determined by digestion in H2SO4 followed by calorimetric measurements using a Technicon Autoanalyzer. Further details are provided in Appendix A.

History of the Data Set: Prior to 1983, this data set was designated as (PPL01). In 1982, samples were collected from Tully and Florence soil sites on three watersheds only (020B, 001D, and 004B). In 1982, three additional sites (Tully soil only) were added (N04C, N01D, and 001C). Also, sampling on Florence sites on 001D was expanded to two sites with six collectors each (instead of one site with eight collectors). Interest in litterfall deposition on slopes caused a change in methods in 1987. Six collectors were placed at the established sampling stations and additional stations were located on hill-slopes in watersheds 020B, 004B, and 001D. The sites on N01B, N04D, and 001C each had eight collectors, as before 1987.

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