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Journal Article

Nutritional quality and calorific value of Amazonian forest litter


Howard-Williams,  Clive
Working Group Tropical Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Limnology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Howard-Williams, C. (1974). Nutritional quality and calorific value of Amazonian forest litter. Amazoniana: Limnologia et Oecologia Regionalis Systematis Fluminis Amazonas, 5(1), 67-75.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-563E-7
A study on the nutritional quality of litter from an Amazon terra firme forest was carried out to
supplement quantitative data on litter production previously published by KLINGE and RODRIGUES
(1968). Analyses for the following constituents were carried out: cell-wall and non cell-wall fractions,
crude protein, total mineral ash, polyphenols, and caloric values. Reasons are given for choosing these
variables. Mineral ash and protein values were very low, whilst cell-wall fractions, which are a measure of the amount of undigestible material, were high, as were caloric values. Polyphenols were also relatively
high. These factors together indicate that the litter is a very low grade forage. Amazon leaf litter has high
caloric values compared with published figures from other tropical forests. The following hypothesis was
offered to explain these high values: as mineral nutrients are severely limiting in this ecosystem, not all
the products of photosynthesis can be channeled into plant growth. Large proportions of these photosynthetic products are therefore probably accumulated in the leaves as reduced high energy compounds
such as waxes, resins etc. Available data do in fact indicate that primary production is relatively low. The
low quality forage which the leaf litter offers may be a contributing factor to the low animal biomass of
the Amazon forests.