Analysis of the forest floor habitat with a structural classification of the litter or L layer

TitleAnalysis of the forest floor habitat with a structural classification of the litter or L layer
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1961
AuthorsHeatwole HFranklin
JournalEcological Monographs

A classification of the L layer of the forest floor based on physical characteristics important to animal inhabitants was developed. Class I was composed of leaves which were rolled, curled, or bent into a V in cross section. It had large, round or angular interstices. Class II was composed of leaves lying flat upon each other. It had small, flat interstices. In general, Class I litter tended to occur in deeper accumulations than Class II and had a greater compressibility and a larger volume of interstitial space. Class III was made up of solid objects such as logs. Each class contained several types, recognized by the habit of the majority of component leaves. The floor of the Montane Rain Forest had a much greater percentage of the area occupied by bare soil and exposed F and H layers than the temperate forests studied. It also had a larger number of litter types. In Montane Rain Forest and oak-pine-aspen forest, the litter was distributed in a mosaic pattern but was rather uniform in the beech-maple and swamp hardwoods. Montane Rain Forest had a thinner F layer than the temperate forests studied, but where an H layer occurred it was as thick on the average as those in the temperate ones. Microtopographical differences and differences in herb cover affected the litter structure. Herbaceous vegetation tended to prevent leaves from settling, and caused a loosely structured litter. Depressions had thicker L, F, and H layers and root mats than level ground, whereas mounds had thinner ones. The deciduous and oak-pine-aspen forests displayed great seasonal fluctuation in volume of litter. In the beech-maple forest and hardwood swamp there was a net increase from 1957 to 1958. If the forests studied are arranged in descending order of total volume of forest floor habitat, they are oak-hickory, Montane Rain Forest, beech-maple, and oak-pine-aspen. Calculations were not made for the swamp hardwoods.