Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2018, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (2): 153-163.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2017.0184

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Dynamics in foliar litter decomposition for Pinus koraiensis and Quercus mongolica in a snow-depth manipulation experiment

WU Qi-Qian,WANG Chuan-Kuan()   

  1. Center for Ecological Research, Northeast Forestry University, Harbin 150040, China
  • Online:2018-04-16 Published:2018-02-20
  • Contact: WU Qi-Qian ORCID:0000-0002-4371-6303 Chuan-Kuan WANG ORCID:0000-0003-3513-5426
  • Supported by:
    Supported by the National Key Technology Research and Development Program of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China(2011BAD37B01);the Program for Changjiang Scholars and Innovative Research Team (IRT_15R09) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities(2572014AA11)


Aims Changes in snowpack induced by climate change may alter water and heat regimes at the ground surface, thus influencing activities of decomposers and litter decomposition in snow-covered regions. However, effects of snow-depth changes on litter decomposition are unclear. Our objective was to characterize the decomposition dynamics of two contrasting tree species—Korean pine (Pinus koraiensis) and Mongolian oak (Quercus mongolica) in a snow-depth manipulation experiment.

Methods The snow-depth manipulation experiment that included three treatments (i.e., snow-addition, snow-removal, and control) was conducted in a temperate Korean pine plantation in the Maoershan Forest Ecosystem Research Station, Northeast China. Air-dried foliar litter of the pine or oak (10 g litter per bag) was sealed in a nylon litterbag (15 cm × 20 cm). A total of 648 litterbags (3 plots × 3 treatments × 2 tree species × 3 replicates × 12 sampling dates) were placed evenly on the forest floor in October 2014. Three replicate litterbags per species were buried in each treatment plot and sampled 12 times (i.e., freezing onset stage, deep freezing stage, thawing stage, early, middle and late snow-free seasons) during the two-year period (2014-2016) to determine the temporal variation of the decomposition rate. Associated factors (i.e., mean temperature at litter layer, freeze-thaw cycle, available nitrogen and phosphorus at the organic layer) were measured simultaneously.

Important findings Tree species, snow-depth treatment, decomposition stage, and the measured associated factors all influenced the decomposition rates of the foliar litter. The litter mass loss was 52.1%-54.5% for the pine, and 53.9%-59.1% for the oak during the two-year period. The decomposition coefficients for the litter of the two species were the highest in the snow-addition plot, and the lowest in the snow-removal plot. Moreover, the snow-depth manipulation dramatically changed the relative contribution of the mass loss (R ratio) during the snow-covered or snow-free seasons to the yearly total loss. Compared with the control, the snow-addition treatment increased the R ratio during the snow-covered season by 9.1% for the pine and 10.4% for the oak, while the snow-removal treatment increased the R ratio during the snow-free season by 10.4% and 12.7%, respectively. In conclusion, changes in snowpack induced by climate change may significantly affect the foliar decomposition in temperate forests, and also alter the relative contribution of the litter decomposition in the snow-covered and snow-free seasons to the yearly decomposition.

Key words: snow-depth manipulation, temperate forest, foliar litter decomposition, climate change, snow-covered season, snow-free season

Fig. 1

Dynamics in snow-depth in different treatment plots (mean ± SD, n = 15). *, p < 0.05."

Fig. 2

Dynamics in air temperature and the temperatures at the litter layer in different treatment plots (mean, n = 3). A, average air temperature and temperature at the litter layer under the control (CK). B, difference in the temperature between the snow-addition (SA) or snow-removal treatment (SR) and the control. Positive value indicates increased temperature after the treatment, while negative value indicates decreased temperature after the treatment."

Table 1

The initial quality of the foliar litter of Pinus koraiensis and Quercus mongolica (mean ± SD, n = 5)"

Tree species
Organic carbon
Total nitrogen
Total phosphorus
Pinus koraiensis
489.6 ± 1.4a 4.5 ± 0.1b 0.55 ± 0.01b 107.0 ± 1.2a 893.5 ± 6.1a 8.1 ± 0.5a 29.8 ± 0.3a 14.6 ± 0.4a 66.8 ± 0.2a
Quercus mongolica
458.8 ± 5.1b 6.5 ± 0.1a 1.30 ± 0.05a 71.1 ± 0.6b 351.7 ± 13.5b 4.9 ± 0.2b 16.1 ± 0.1b 12.9 ± 0.1b 25.0 ± 0.6b

Table 2

Sampling stages, dates and decomposition days across the decomposition process of the foliar litter"

取样顺序 Sampling order 取样阶段 Sampling stage 取样日期 Sampling date 分解天数 Decomposing days
1 第一年冻结初期 1st year freezing onset stage 2014-12-02 49
2 第一年深冻期 1st year deep freezing stage 2015-03-18 145
3 第一年融化期 1st year thawing stage 2015-04-18 176
4 第一年无雪初期 1st year early snow-free season 2015-06-20 239
5 第一年无雪中期 1st year mid snow-free season 2015-08-20 300
6 第一年无雪末期 1st year late snow-free season 2015-10-20 366
7 第二年冻结初期 2nd year freezing onset stage 2015-12-25 407
8 第二年深冻期 2nd year deep freezing stage 2016-03-25 516
9 第二年融化期 2nd year thawing stage 2016-04-22 544
10 第二年无雪初期 2nd year early snow-free season 2016-06-20 603
11 第二年无雪中期 2nd year mid snow-free season 2016-08-22 666
12 第二年无雪末期 2nd year late snow-free season 2016-10-24 732

Table 3

Characteristics of environmental conditions in different treatment plots during the decomposition process of the foliar litter (mean ± SD, n = 3)"

in litter layer (°C)
Freeze-thaw cycle
in litter layer
Organic carbon
in organic layer
Total nitrogen
in organic
Total phosphorus
in organic
C/N in
organic layer
C/P in
organic layer
N/P in
organic layer
4.4 ± 0.3a 58 ± 1c 81.4 ± 2.2a 7.4 ± 0.2a 1.3 ± 0.1a 10.9 ± 0.2b 62.4 ± 0.3c 5.5 ± 0.2c
3.8 ± 0.2b 70 ± 1b 75.4 ± 1.1b 6.6 ± 0.3b 0.9 ± 0.2b 11.2 ± 0.2b 83.9 ± 0.4b 7.2 ± 0.1b
2.7 ± 0.5c 84 ± 2a 72.6 ± 0.6c 6.1 ± 0.1c 0.7 ± 0.1c 12.0 ± 0.3a 104.3 ± 0.6a 8.7 ± 0.3a

Fig. 3

Comparisons and dynamics in the foliar litter decomposition rates of the two tree species under different treatments (mean ± SD, n = 3). * and different letters indicate significant differences among the treatments (p < 0.05)."

Table 4

The decomposition model, decomposition coefficient (k), determination coefficient (R2), time of 50% and 95% decomposition of the foliar litter of Pinus koraiensis and Quercus mongolica under different treatments"

树种 Tree species 处理 Treatment 回归方程 Regression model k R2 半分解时间 t0.5 (month) 95%分解时间 t0.95 (month)
Pinus koraiensis
增雪 Snow-addition y = 99.691e-0.030t 0.030 0.982 23.00 99.75
对照 Control y = 101.398e-0.029t 0.029 0.979 24.38 103.78
除雪 Snow-removal y = 102.545e-0.027t 0.027 0.965 26.60 111.88
Quercus mongolica
增雪 Snow-addition y = 100.026e-0.037t 0.037 0.984 18.74 80.97
对照 Control y = 100.342e-0.034t 0.034 0.973 20.49 88.21
除雪 Snow-removal y = 103.359e-0.031t 0.031 0.955 23.42 97.70

Table 5

Repeated-measures ANOVA analysis on effects of tree species, snow-depth and decomposition stage on the decomposition rate of the foliar litter"

因子 Factor df F p
树种 Tree species 1/2 85.9 <0.001
雪深 Snow-depth 2/12 52.8 <0.001
分解阶段 Decomposition stage 11/48 3371.1 <0.001
树种×雪深 Tree species × Snow-depth 2/12 4.33 0.014
Tree species × Decomposition stage
11/48 21.5 <0.001
Snow-depth × Decomposition stage
22/48 3.58 0.028
Tree species × Snow-depth × Decomposition stage
22/48 3.16 0.045

Fig. 4

Relative contribution of litter loss during the snow-covered and snow-free seasons to the total annual litter loss for the two tree species under different treatments (mean, n = 3)."

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