Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2017, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (8): 894-913.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2017.0023

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Advances in the effect of nitrogen deposition on grassland litter decomposition

Li-Li YANG, Ji-Rui GONG*(), Min LIU, Bo YANG, Zi-He ZHANG, Qin-Pu LUO, Zhan-Wei ZHAI, Yan PAN   

  1. State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology, Beijing Normal University, College of Resources Science & Technology, Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
  • Online:2017-09-29 Published:2017-08-10
  • Contact: Ji-Rui GONG
  • About author:

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


Atmospheric nitrogen deposition has increased in the last several decades due to anthropogenic activities and global changes. Increasing nitrogen deposition has become an important factor regulating carbon cycle in grassland ecosystems. Litter decomposition, a key process of carbon and nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems, is the main source of soil carbon pool and the basis of soil fertility maintenance. Elevated nitrogen deposition could affect litter decomposition by raising soil nitrogen availability, increasing the quantity and quality of litter inputs, and altering soil microorganism and soil conditions. Litter decomposition are complex biological, physical and chemical processes, which were affected by abiotic, biological factors and their interactions. The effects of nitrogen deposition on litter decomposition and the underlying mechanisms were discussed in this paper, including the aspactes of soil nitrogen availability, litter production, litter quality, microclimate, soil microorganism and enzyme activities. The main research contents, directions, methods and existing problems of litter decomposition in grasslands were discussed. We also discussed the prospect of future directions to study the interaction and feedback between nitrogen deposition and grassland ecosystem carbon cycling process.

Key words: nitrogen deposition, grassland ecosystem, litter decomposition, litter quality, research method

Fig. 1

Factors controlling litter decomposition and their interactions."

Fig. 2

Effects of nitrogen (N) deposition on litter decomposition."

Table 1

Current researches on litter decomposition under different nitrogen (N) addition treatments in grassland ecosystems"

Study area
N addition concentration
Factors that affect decomposition
Fukang Desert Ecological Station of Xinjiang
21 g?m-2?a-1 凋落物质量 Litter quality Zhao et al., 2015a
青藏高原 Qinghai-Xizang Plateau 10 g?m-2?a-1 凋落物质量 Litter quality Zhu et al., 2016a
内蒙古温带草原 Nei Mongol temperate grassland 0-15 g?m-2?a-1 凋落物质量 Litter quality Li et al., 2016
中国南方种植园 China Southern Plantation 0-10 g?m-2?a-1 凋落物化学计量、养分释放
Litter stoichiometry and nutrient release
Zhu et al., 2016b
呼伦贝尔草甸草原 Hulunbeier meadow steppe 0-2 g?m-2?a-1 凋落物质量 Litter quality Zhang et al., 2013
英国Silwood公园 British Silwood Park 5.5-330 mg?L-1 凋落物质量、土壤生物
Litter quality and soil biology
Smith & Bradford, 2003
澳大利亚落基山脉 Australia Rocky Mountains 113-225 mg?L-1 微生物呼吸、土壤化学计量
Microbial respiration and soil stoichiometry
Finn et al., 2015
加拿大荒废草地 Canadian wasteland 6 g?m-2?a-1 温度、凋落物质量 Temperature and litter quality Henry & Moise, 2015

Table 2

Study methods of litter decomposition and their characteristics"

Principle of application
将凋落物装入尼龙网袋并放置于地表土壤中, 测定质量损失
The litter was loaded into a nylon mesh bag and
placed in the surface soil to measure the mass loss
最大程度模拟自然分解, 但隔离了部分土壤生物的作用
The maximum degree of simulation of natural decomposition, but with the isolation of some soil organisms
Smith &
Bradford, 2003
culture method
Controlling the factor gradient artificially
用于控制实验, 但不能真实反映分解状态
Manipulation experiments, but not relecting
real conditions
Jiang et al.,
Isotope method
Litter is labeled with 15N, 13C isotopes to trace the
transfer of these elements
To study the direction and transfer rate of an element
Liu et al., 2013
The near infrared spectroscopy absorption characteristics
are used to study elements and compound in decomposed litter
Determination of a variety of elements and compounds
in the litter simultaneously
Fortunel et al.,
与核磁共振、气象色谱等结合, 测定代谢组分
Application of nuclear magnetic resonance and gas
chromatography to study metabolic components
Exploration of the changes of small molecules
with tiny changes of environmental factors
et al., 2013
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