Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2016, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (9): 883-892.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2016.0040

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Leaf decomposition and nutrient release of dominant species in the forest and lake in the Jiuzhaigou National Nature Reserve, China

Bo XU1,2, Zhong-Fu ZHU3, Jin-Yang LI1, Yan WU1, Gui-Ping DENG3, Ning WU1, Fu-Sun SHI1,*()   

  1. 1Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu 610041, China

    2Aba Teachers University, Aba, Sichuan 623002, China
    3Jiuzhaigou National Nature Reserve Administration, Aba, Sichuan 623402, China
  • Received:2016-01-19 Accepted:2016-07-23 Online:2016-09-29 Published:2016-09-10
  • Contact: Fu-Sun SHI


AimsLitter decomposition is an important ecological process in nutrient cycling and productivity of ecosystems. Our objective is to quantify the differences of litter decomposition and nutrient release (N and P) under the forest and in an alpine lake among the dominant tree species in the Jiuzhaigou National Nature Reserve.
Methods Fresh leaf litters of Abies ernestii, Pinus tabulaeformis, Betula albo-sinensis, and Salix cupularis were collected and placed in bags under the forest and in an alpine lake for a year.
Important findings The mass remaining ratio (MR) of the leaf litters was well predicted with Olson’s decay model (r > 0.93, p < 0.01). The time for 99% decomposition was the shortest for S. cupularis (6.80 a), followed by B. albo-sinensis (10.34 a), A. ernestii (18.88 a), and P. tabulaeformis (27.21 a). These values were 1.48-, 1.55-, 1.80-, and 1.65-folds of the corresponding values in the lake, respectively. Both MR and nitrogen remaining ratio (NR) had significantly negative correlations with the leaf initial N concentration, but significantly positive correlations with the initial C:N. The nutrient release was significantly different among the four species and between the two sites (i.e., forest and alpine lake). The N release of S. cupularis was consistent between forest and the lake (i.e. directly released in the beginning of decomposition), while other species had an obvious N enrichment process before it released. The release of P among was similar among the four species and between the two sites, with a release—enrichment—release pattern. Overall, the leaf litter decomposition appeared as an intricate process that was affected by the litter chemistry and and the environment. The fast litter decomposition in the lake may have a profound influence on the water quanlity in the Jiuzhaigou National Nature Reserve.

Key words: leaf litter, decomposition, initial nutrient content, nutrient release, alpine lake

Table 1

Site information"

样地 Site 位置 Location 经纬度 Longitude and latitude 海拔 Elevation (m)
黄果冷杉林 Abies ernestii forest 卧龙海 Wolong Lake 103.90° E, 33.20° N 2 266
柳树灌丛 Salix cupularis shrub 树正群海 Shuzheng lakes 103.90° E, 33.20° N 2 272
油松林 Pinus tabulaeformis forest 公主海 Gongzhu Lake 103.90° E, 33.20° N 2 314
红桦林 Betula albo-sinensis forest 诺日朗 Nuorilang 103.91° E, 33.16° N 2 398

Fig. 1

Changes in daily mean air and water temperatures from 2014-09-01 to 2015-09-25."

Table 2

Initial nutrient contents of the leaf litter (mean ± SE)"

树种 Species 碳含量
C content (mg·g-1)
N content (mg·g-1)
P content (mg·g-1)
红桦 Betula albo-sinensis 529.91 ± 10.04a 15.39 ± 0.32b 0.88 ± 0.03b 34.46 ± 1.37b 604.14 ± 34.61b 17.52 ± 0.31a
高山柳 Salix cupularis 505.12 ± 8.13b 16.69 ± 0.40a 1.39 ± 0.04a 30.26 ± 1.25b 363.17 ± 14.54c 12.01 ± 0.02c
黄果冷杉 Pinus tabulaeformis 489.32 ± 10.32b 15.45 ± 0.43b 1.44 ± 0.05a 31.70 ± 1.43b 339.60 ± 17.25c 10.71 ± 0.22d
油松 Abies ernestii 530.59 ± 11.60a 9.42 ± 0.33c 0.65 ± 0.03c 56.37 ± 2.76a 812.60 ± 58.05a 14.41 ± 0.66b

Table 3

Multivariate analysis of variance on the differences in mass and nutrient remaining ratios among species, decomposition time and site"

变异来源 Source of variation 自由度
Degree of
Mass remaining ratio
Nitrogen remaining ratio
Phosphorus remaining ratio
F p F p F p
物种 Species 3 7 394.01 < 0.01 46.25 < 0.01 10.28 < 0.01
分解时间 Decomposition time 3 6 486.93 < 0.01 37.18 < 0.01 8.17 < 0.01
环境类型 Environmental types 1 7 169.46 < 0.01 0.91 0.34 51.04 < 0.01
物种×分解时间 Species × decomposition time 9 264.45 < 0.01 8.84 < 0.01 9.96 < 0.01
物种×环境类型 Species × environmental types 3 24.27 < 0.01 8.46 < 0.01 5.99 0.00
分解时间×环境类型 Decomposition time × environmental types 3 121.53 < 0.01 50.83 < 0.01 37.60 < 0.01

Fig. 2

Mass remaining ratio of leaf litter decomposition in the forest (A) and lake (B) (mean ± SE). The lowercase letters denote highly significant differences in mass remaining ratios among the species for the same decomposition time (p < 0.01), with each decomposition time holds the same multiple comparison results."

Table 4

Empirical model for leaf litter decomposition"

Fitted equations
Decomposition coefficient k
Time of half
decomposition (a)
Time of 99%
decomposition (a)
coefficient r
Betula albo-sinensis
陆地 Land y = 97.03e-0.441t 0.441 1.50 10.34 0.93 p < 0.01
水体 Water y = 95.01e-0.678t 0.678 0.95 6.69 0.96 p < 0.01
Salix cupularis
陆地 Land y = 95.16e-0.667t 0.667 0.96 6.80 0.94 p < 0.01
水体 Water y = 91.76e-0.966t 0.966 0.63 4.66 0.95 p < 0.01
Pinus tabulaeformis
陆地 Land y = 99.33e-0.169t 0.169 4.07 27.21 0.94 p < 0.01
水体 Water y = 94.12e-0.275t 0.275 2.30 16.47 0.96 p < 0.01
Abies ernestii
陆地 Land y = 98.42e-0.238t 0.238 2.84 18.88 0.97 p < 0.01
水体 Water y = 93.43e-0.432t 0.432 1.45 10.47 0.99 p < 0.01

Fig. 3

Dynamics of nutrient remaining ratios of the leaf litter decomposition in the forest (A and C) and lake (B and D) (mean ± SE)."

Table 5

Pearson correlations between mass, nitrogen and phosphorus remaining ratio after one-year decomposition and leaf initial nutrient contents"

质量剩余率 Mass remaining ratio 0.12ns -0.63** -0.41* 0.57** 0.46* 0.47ns
氮素剩余率 Nitrogen remaining ratio 0.24ns -0.60** -0.45* 0.58** 0.50* 0.11ns
磷素剩余率 Phosphorus remaining ratio -0.06ns -0.14ns -0.02ns 0.14ns 0.04ns -0.14ns
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