Amazonia and the Gran Chaco are the largest phytogeographic units of the Neotropical Region. The Forest Wedge of the Santa Fe province of Argentina is the southernmost part of the Eastern Chaco, and there are three main types of forest, 1) the mixed dense forests, 2) the Schinopsis balansae “quebrachal” and 3) the Prosopis nigra var. ragonesei forests, distributed along an environmental gradient correlated with topographic elevation. In this paper litterfall and organic matter decomposition of four species were studied in two different microsites in a Schinopsis balansae forest during three years. Litter fall varied along the year following seasonal environmental variation but litterfall variations between years were not significant. Litterfall was not uniform over the whole surface, under close canopy monthly average litterfall amounts 32.67 g/m2, in open gaps 4.47 g/m2 and 15.07 g/m2 under medium density canopy. Organic matter decomposition, like in other forests, was a negative exponential function of time, and the decomposition rate is independent from the microsites where it falls, 0.15 and 0.12 in sunny and shadow microsites respectively for Maytenus vitis-idaea, 0.10 and 0.11 in sunny and shadow microsites respectively for Achatocarpus praecox, 0.04 and 0.03 for Acacia praecox, 0.04 and 0.06 for Schinopsis balansae in sunny and shadow microsites respectively. Shurbs litter was decomposed faster than the tree litter, and the shurbs litter nutrientes level was also higher. Therefore the rate of organic matter decomposition is more correlated with leaf characteristics than with environmental variables.
Keywords: chaco, forest communities, litter fall, litter decomposition, organic matter circulation, schinopsis balansae forests