Ilek A, Gasecka M. , Magdziak Z., Saitanis C. and Siegert C.M.
Plants 2024, 13, 1293
Publication year: 2024


Background and Aims: Secondary plant metabolites, including organic acids and phenolic compounds, have a significant impact on the properties of organic matter in soil, influencing its structure and function. How the production of these compounds in foliage that falls to the forest floor as litterfall varies across tree age and seasonality are of considerable interest for advancing our understanding of organic matter dynamics. Methods: Monthly, we collected fallen needles of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) across stands of five different age classes (20, 40, 60, 80, and 100 years) for one year and measured the organic acids and phenolic compounds. Results: Seven low-molecular-weight organic acids and thirteen phenolic compounds were detected in the litterfall. No differences were observed across stand age. Significant seasonal differences were detected. Most compounds peaked during litterfall in the growing season. Succinic acid was the most prevalent organic acid in the litterfall, comprising 78% of total organic acids (351.27 ± 34.27 µg g− 1), and was 1.5 to 11.0 times greater in the summer than all other seasons. Sinapic acid was the most prevalent phenolic compound in the litterfall (42.15 µg g− 1), representing 11% of the total phenolic compounds, and was 39.8 times greater in spring and summer compared to autumn and winter. Growing season peaks in needle concentrations were observed for all thirteen phenolic compounds and two organic acids (lactic, succinic). Citric acid exhibited a definitive peak in late winter into early spring. Conclusions: Our results highlight the seasonal dynamics of the composition of secondary plant metabolites in litterfall, which is most different at the onset of the growing season. Fresh inputs of litterfall at this time of emerging biological activity likely have seasonal impacts on soil’s organic matter composition as well.

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