Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2017, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (1): 5-13.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2016.0202

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Litter standing crop of shrubland ecosystems in southern China

Jie-Lin GE1, Gao-Ming XIONG1, Jia-Xiang LI1, Wen-Ting XU1, Chang-Ming ZHAO1, Zhi-Jun LU2, Yue-Lin LI3, Zong-Qiang XIE1,*()   

  1. 1State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China

    2Key Laboratory of Aquatic Botany and Watershed Ecology, Wuhan Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan 430074, China

    3South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou 510650, China
  • Received:2016-06-14 Accepted:2016-11-10 Online:2017-01-23 Published:2017-01-10
  • Contact: Zong-Qiang XIE
  • About author:

    KANG Jing-yao(1991-), E-mail:


Aims Litter is an important component of terrestrial ecosystems, which plays significant roles in carbon and nutrient cycles. Quantifying regional-scale pattern of litter standing crop would improve our understanding in the mechanism of the terrestrial ecosystem carbon cycle, also with help in predicting the responses of carbon cycle of terrestrial ecosystems to future climate change. Our objective was to examine variation in litter standing crop of shrublands along the environmental gradients in southern China.
Methods During 2011-2014, we investigated the litter standing crop at 453 shrublands sites by the stratified random sampling, reflecting climatic and soil attributes across southern China.
Important findings We found that the mean value of litter standing crop in these shrubland ecosystems across southern China was 0.32 kg·m-2. It was 68% of forest litter standing crop (0.47 kg·m-2) and was five times higher than that in grasslands (0.06 kg·m-2) in China. Litter standing crop increased with latitude. Our results showed that litter standing crop was negatively correlated with mean annual temperature, soil total P and soil pH, but not significantly correlated with other environmental variables, including mean annual precipitation, soil carbon, nitrogen and soil organic matter. The conversion coefficient of carbon in litter standing crop was 0.41, which is significantly lower than that of vegetation in shrublands (0.50), resulting in an overestimate in carbon storage of litter standing crop in shrubland up to 22% by applying wrong conversion coefficient. We concluded that litter standing crop of shrublands is an important component in terrestrial ecosystems. Mean annual temperature was the most important environmental variable, accounting for the variation in litter standing crop of shrublands in southern China. To our best of knowledge, this is the first study to quantify variation in litter standing crop of shrublands at the regional scale. Therefore, our study will have important implications for assessing the carbon budget of terrestrial ecosystems in China.

Key words: accumulation of litter, spatial pattern, conversion coefficient of carbon, mean annual temperature, soil attribute, climate

Table 1

General information on geographic location, climate and soil for different provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions"

No. of sites
Latitude (N)
Longitude (E)
Mean annual
Mean annual
Soil total carbon
Soil total nitrogen
Soil total phosphorus (mg·g-1)
江苏 Jiangsu 2012-2013 5 31.6-34.6 118.1-120.3 18-388 16.1 1 019.6 1.4 0.1 0.5
浙江 Zhejiang 2011-2013 26 27.5-31.1 118.4-122.3 27-631 18.2 1 784.3 1.8 0.2 0.3
安徽 Anhui 2011-2012 20 29.7-31.6 115.9-119.4 47-553 17.2 1 692.1 2.1 0.2 0.5
湖北 Hubei 2011-2013 74 29.1-32.9 108.7-115.8 61-1 865 16.3 1 375.2 2.3 0.2 0.6
江西 Jiangxi 2011-2013 49 25.0-29.6 113.9-117.5 28-601 20.0 1 641.0 1.7 0.2 0.4
福建 Fujian 2011-2013 39 24.1-27.9 116.4-120.2 42-1 132 20.3 1 795.1 1.3 0.1 0.2
广东 Guangdong 2011-2014 35 21.7-25.0 111.3-116.5 0-678 22.6 2 009.2 2.2 0.2 0.3
湖南 Hunan 2011-2013 70 25.1-29.7 109.6-113.9 61-1 405 18.6 1 547.3 2.5 0.2 0.4
重庆 Chongqing 2011-2013 50 28.5-32.0 105.9-110.0 173-1 506 16.8 1 355.3 2.9 0.2 0.6
广西 Guangxi 2011-2014 44 21.7-25.0 105.2-111.4 33-1 259 22.0 1 669.8 3.0 0.3 0.8
海南 Hainan 2011-2012 20 18.3-20.0 108.7-111.0 4-147 26.1 1 569.3 0.9 0.1 0.4

Fig. 1

Frequency distribution of litter standing crop of shrublands in southern China."

Fig. 2

Variation in litter standing crop of shrublands across the latitudinal and longitudinal gradients in southern China (mean ± SE). A, Latitude. B, Longitude."

Fig. 3

Variation in litter standing crop of shrublands of southern China in relation to environmental factors in China. We only showed the figures that depicted the significant relationship between litter standing crop and environmental factors. A-E, The relationship between litter standing crop and single environmental variables including mean annual temperature (MAT), soil total phosphorus (P) content, soil pH value, soil bulk density and climatic dryness (Idw). F, Observed value vs. predicted value of litter standing crop from multiple regression using mean annual temperature (MAT), soil P content and soil pH value as predictors."

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