Litterfall in primary and secondary forests (‘capoeira’) in eastern Brazilian Amazonia was measured fortnightly from August 1979 to October 1980. The nutrient contents of the litter (N, P, K, Ca and Mg) were determined.
Litterfall differed between the two forest types (primary forest − 8.04 t ha−1 yr−1; secondary forest − 5.04 t ha−1 yr−1). The value obtained for primary forest was similar to those reported elsewhere in Brazil (mean = 8 t ha−1 yr−1) and from other regions of S. America (mean = 7.20 t ha−1 yr−1).
Prediction of net primary production from litterfall at the primary forest site gave rise to values of 14.47 and 26.53 t ha−1 yr−1. Estimates of net primary production in ‘capoeira’ ranged from 9.07 to 16.63 t ha−1 yr−1.
Seasonality of litterfall was more marked in ‘capoeira’ than primary forest but in both cases was less pronounced than elsewhere in Brazil.
Nutrient concentrations were highest in ‘capoeira’ litter, a finding which accords with results from other tropical sites; nevertheless input of nutrients per unit area of forest floor was greatest in the primary forest.