LITTERFALL PRODUCTION AS A FUNCTION OF PLANTING SEEDLINGS SYSTEM IN A TWO YEARS FOREST RESTORATION AREA IN THE COASTAL - PLAIN OF CARAGUATATUBA, SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL
ABSTRACT Seedlings plantation combining pioneer and non-pioneer species facilitates the restoration of ecological processes, such as litterfall production. Litterfall is fundamental to reestablish nutrient cycling and to recover soil fertility in early stages of restoration. This study evaluated litterfall production in a two-year forest restoration area (transitional rain forest: Restinga high forest - submontane rain forest) by comparing differences in litter production between seedlings plantation in rows (LI, 2x2m spacing) and in clusters (NU, 30x30cm spacing). Litterfall was collected monthly during 24 months in 62 plots (27 LI; 27 NU and 8 controls without plantation). Litterfall dry mass, litter fractions (leaves, twigs, reproductive and miscellaneous), dry mass from seedling material and dry mass from vegetation prior to the restoration were determined. Annual litter production was higher in restored plots (254.91 g.m-2) than in control ones (120.99 g.m-2) and there was no difference between rows (259.39 g.m-2) and clusters (250.59 g.m-2). There was substitution of the litter type with time, which was higher in restored than in control plots, but there was no difference between rows and clusters. Results indicated that: (1) planting seedlings facilitates litterfall recovery; (2) there is litter substitution as from the beginning of the restoration; and (3) planting seedlings in rows or clusters is equally efficient to restore litter production. In conclusion, planting seedlings leads to higher litter production and it could benefit the recovery of nutrients cycling in degraded areas, regardless of the disposition of seedlings in rows or clusters.