iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Hydrological properties of litter layers in mixed forests in Mt. Qinling, China

Shujun Chen (1-2), Tianjian Cao (1), Nobuaki Tanaka (3), Tian Gao (1), Lan Zhu (4), Chris B Zou (3-5-6)   

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 11, Issue 2, Pages 243-250 (2018)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor2535-011
Published: Mar 12, 2018 - Copyright © 2018 SISEF

Research Articles

The litter layer is an important component of forest ecosystems, although little is known about the differences in litter characteristics and hydrological properties of unmanaged, overgrown broadleaved and coniferous mixed forests in the subtropical and temperate zones. This study was carried out in a naturally generated broadleaved and coniferous mixed forest at the Qinling National Forest Ecosystem Research Station, Shaanxi Province, China. We quantified the litter thickness, mass, and its hydrological properties in evergreen pine (Pinus tabulaeformis) stands and deciduous oak (Quercus aliena var. acuteserrata) stands through in situ surveys and laboratory immersion experiments. The thickness of the litter layer for P. tabulaeformis averaged 9.3 ± 2.8 cm, and it was not significantly different from that detected in the Q. aliena stand (8.3 ± 3.6 cm). The total mass of the litter layer for P. tabulaeformis, 27.94 ± 9.81 Mg ha-1, was significantly higher than the total mass of 16.04 ± 3.60 Mg ha-1 found for Q. aliena. The mass of the semi-decomposed, fermented litter (OF) layer was significantly higher than that of the non-decomposed litter (OL) layer, irrespective of species. The rate of water absorption by dry litter was the highest at the onset of the immersion experiment and decreased exponentially with time. The water-holding capacity (Wm) and water-interception capacity (Wi) of the OF layer were higher than the OL layer for both forest stands. The Wm and Wi for the P. tabulaeformis stand were higher than those for the Q. aliena stand at our study sites. The higher Wm and Wi for P. tabulaeformis may be more effective in ameliorating the splash impact from high-intensity storms to improve water quality, while relatively lower Wm and Wi for Q. aliena may be considered favorable for augmenting water yield. Forest resource managers should consider those differences along with the other components of the water budget when making management decisions.


Water Conservation Forest, Hydrological Properties, Forest Succession

Authors’ address

Shujun Chen
Tianjian Cao
Tian Gao
College of Forestry, Northwest A&F University, Yangling 712100 (China)
Shujun Chen
Qinling National Forest Ecosystem Research Station, Ningshan 711600 (China)
Nobuaki Tanaka
Chris B Zou
Ecohydrology Research Institute, The University of Tokyo Forests, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Seto, Aichi 489-0031 (Japan)
Lan Zhu
Department of Statistics, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater 74078 (USA)
Chris B Zou
Tianjin Key Laboratory of Water Resources and Environment, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin 300387 (China)
Chris B Zou
Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater 74078 (United States)

Corresponding author

Chris B Zou


Chen S, Cao T, Tanaka N, Gao T, Zhu L, Zou CB (2018). Hydrological properties of litter layers in mixed forests in Mt. Qinling, China. iForest 11: 243-250. - doi: 10.3832/ifor2535-011

Academic Editor

Giorgio Alberti

Paper history

Received: Jun 26, 2017
Accepted: Dec 27, 2017

First online: Mar 12, 2018
Publication Date: Apr 30, 2018
Publication Time: 2.50 months

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