Do evergreen and deciduous trees have different effects on net N mineralization in soil?

Kevin E. Mueller, Sarah E. Hobbie, Jacek Oleksyn, Peter B. Reich, David M. Eissenstat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Evergreen and deciduous plants are widely expected to have different impacts on soil nitrogen (N) availability because of differences in leaf litter chemistry and ensuing effects on net N mineralization ( min). We evaluated this hypothesis by compiling published data on net min rates beneath co-occurring stands of evergreen and deciduous trees. The compiled data included 35 sets of co-occurring stands in temperate and boreal forests. Evergreen and deciduous stands did not have consistently divergent effects on net min rates; net min beneath deciduous trees was higher when comparing natural stands (19 contrasts), but equivalent to evergreens in plantations (16 contrasts). We also compared net min rates beneath pairs of co-occurring genera. Most pairs of genera did not differ consistently, i.e., tree species from one genus had higher net min at some sites and lower net min at other sites. Moreover, several common deciduous genera (Acer, Betula, Populus) and deciduous Quercus spp. did not typically have higher net min rates than common evergreen genera (Pinus, Picea). There are several reasons why tree effects on net min are poorly predicted by leaf habit and phylogeny. For example, the amount of N mineralized from decomposing leaves might be less than the amount of N mineralized from organic matter pools that are less affected by leaf litter traits, such as dead roots and soil organic matter. Also, effects of plant traits and plant groups on net min probably depend on site-specific factors such as stand age and soil type.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1463-1472
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Decomposition
  • Genera
  • Inorganic nitrogen
  • Leaf
  • Litter
  • Mineralization
  • Mycorrhizal fungi
  • Nutrients
  • Plant functional trait
  • Plant functional type


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