Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2018, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (7): 713-722.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2018.0029

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effect of geographical sources and biochemical traits on plant litter decomposition in a peatland

LIU Yuan-Yuan1,2,3, MA Jin-Ze1,2,3, BU Zhao-Jun1,2,3,*(), WANG Sheng-Zhong1,2,3,*(), ZHANG Xue-Bing1, ZHANG Ting-Yu1, LIU Sha-Sha1,2,3, FU Biao1, KANG Yuan1,2,3   

  1. 1 Institute for Peat and Mire Research, School of Geographical Science, Northeast Normal University, Changchun 130024, China
    2 Key Laboratory for Wetland Conservation and Vegetation Restoration, Ministry of Environmental Protection, Changchun 130024, China
    3 Jilin Provincial Key Laboratory for Wetland Ecological Processes and Environmental Change in the Changbai Mountains, Changchun 130024, China
  • Online:2018-11-03 Published:2018-07-20
  • Contact: Zhao-Jun BU,Sheng-Zhong WANG;
  • Supported by:
    Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China(41371103);Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China(41471043);Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China(41601085);the National Key Research and Development Program of China(2016YFC0500407)


Aims Few comparative studies have been conducted on the decomposition of the plant litters from different geographical sources in the same site. We aimed to understand the effect of geographical sources and biochemical traits of peatland plants on litter decomposition.

Methods Along a latitudinal gradient, we collected plant materials from three peatlands, Dajiuhu, Hani and Mangui, to carry out a one-year decomposition experiment with litter bags in Hani Peatland, Changbai Mountains.

Important findings When species identity was not considered, we found that overall initial nitrogen (N) content decreased while initial lignin content, carbon nitrogen ratio (C/N) and lignin/N increased with latitude in the litters from 3 peatlands. Litter decomposition differed with plant functional groups. After one year of decomposition, dry mass loss of both birch and sedge (ca. 50%) was higher than that of peat mosses (ca. 10%). No significant difference was observed in litter dry mass loss among different geographical sources. However, dry mass loss of Sphagnum magellanicum from the middle latitudinal peatland (19%) was higher than that from the high latitudinal site (9%). The factors affecting litter decomposition differed among plant functional groups. Initial total phenolics/N was the important factor to determine the difference in litter dry mass loss among the 3 genera. The initial N content and C/N, and Klason lignin content and total phenolics/N were positively related to litter decomposition of Carex and Sphagnum, respectively. If the decrease in latitude is used to indicate climate warming, to some extent, our study suggests that current climate warming, by changing the plant composition and biochemical traits, may alter litter decomposition and even carbon accumulation in high latitudinal peatlands.

Key words: latitudinal gradient pattern, plant functional group, peatland, biochemical quality

Table 1

The sites for litter collection and litter decomposition"

Site for decomposition
Site for collection
物种 Species
哈泥 Hani 大九湖 Dajiuhu 泥炭藓 Sphagnum palustre
签草 Carex doniana
红桦 Betula albosinensis
哈泥 Hani 中央泥炭藓 S. centrale
中位泥炭藓 S. magellanicum
毛薹草 C. lasiocarpa
油桦 B. fruticosa var. ruprechtiana
满归 Mangui 中位泥炭藓 S. magellanicum
锈色泥炭藓S. fuscum
瘤囊薹草 C. schmidtii
柴桦 B. fruticosa

Fig. 1

Initial chemical composition of each plant litter in a peatland and initial chemical composition of all the plant litters from each peatland (mean ± SE, n = 5). Ball, the mean of Betula; Ba, B. albosinensis; Br, B. fruticosa var. ruprechtiana; Bf, B. fruticosa; Call, the mean of Carex; Cd, C. doniana; Cl, C. lasiocarpa; Cs, C. schmidtii; Sall, the mean of Sphagnum; Sp, S. palustre; Sc, S. centrale; Sm, S. magellanicum; Sf, S. fuscum. D, the mean of Dajiuhu; H, the mean of Hani; M, the mean of Mangui. Different capital letters indicate significant differences in initial chemical composition among genera (p < 0.05), and different lowercase letters indicate significant differences in initial chemical composition between both species in a genus or average of all the species among three sites (p < 0.05)."

Fig. 2

Initial stoichiometric ratio of each plant litter in a peatland and average initial stoichiometric ratios of all the plant litters from each peatland (mean ± SE, n = 5). Different capital letters indicate significant differences in initial stoichiometric ratios among genera (p < 0.05). Different lowercase letters indicate significant differences in initial stoichiometric ratios between both species in a genus and average of all the species from three sources (p < 0.05). See Fig. 1 for notes."

Table 2

One-way analysis of variance for the effect of species, genus and source of plants on initial chemical index and stoichiometric ratios of litters"

相关系数 Correlation coefficient
C N 总酚
C/N 总酚/C
phenolics /C
种 Species B 106.293*** 41.509*** 62.296*** 0.400 19.628*** 69.213*** 3.821 45.356*** 24.485*** 25.207***
<0.001 <0.001 <0.001 0.679 <0.001 <0.001 0.052 <0.001 <0.001 <0.001
C 2.657 8.308** 45.047*** 4.476* 16.272*** 40.042*** 5.066* 18.049*** 15.195** 16.497***
0.111 0.005 <0.001 0.035 <0.001 <0.001 0.025 <0.001 0.001 <0.001
S 0.827 52.314*** 6.552* 3.242* 73.627*** 6.765** 2.544 1.109 34.728*** 9.823**
0.461 <0.001 0.012 0.075 <0.001 0.011 0.120 0.361 <0.001 0.003
属 Genus - 129.384*** 43.542*** 257.553*** 21.628*** 24.742*** 229.423*** 47.086*** 84.932*** 28.998*** 184.473***
<0.001 <0.001 <0.001 <0.001 <0.001 <0.001 <0.001 <0.001 <0.001 <0.001
- 0.660 3.341* 0.346 2.324 7.034** 0.462 1.294 2.473 5.306** 0.200
0.522 0.045 0.709 0.110 0.002 0.633 0.285 0.097 0.009 0.819

Table 3

One-way analysis of variance for the effect of species, genus and source of plant litters on decomposition in a peatland"

Dry mass loss (%)
Carbon loss (%)
Nitrogen loss (%)
Total phenolics loss (%)
Lignin loss (%)
F p F p F p F p F p
种 Species B 1.411 0.282 0.920 0.425 0.990 0.400 0.020 0.980 4.726* 0.031
C 16.381*** <0.001 14.883** 0.001 15.432*** <0.001 8.005** 0.006 2.229 0.150
S 2.524 0.122 2.902 0.094 38.145*** <0.001 4.842* 0.029 18.463*** <0.001
属 Genus - 57.069*** <0.001 50.719*** <0.001 0.387 0.681 417.741*** <0.001 3.235* 0.049
来源地 Source - 0.046 0.995 0.025 0.976 1.598 0.214 0.201 0.818 1.804 0.177

Fig. 3

The effects of species and source on losses of litter dry mass (A), C (B), N (C), total phenolics (D) and lignin (E)(mean ± SE, n = 5). Different capital letters indicate significant differences in the effects of different genera on dry mass, C, N, total phenolics and lignin loss (p < 0.05). Different lowercase letters indicate significant differences in dry mass, C, N, total phenolics and lignin losses between different species in a same genus and among all species from different sources (p < 0.05). See Fig. 1 for notes."

Fig. 4

Effect of plant litter source on the losses of dry mass (A), C (B), N (C), total phenolics (D) and lignin (E) of Sphagnum magellanicum litters (mean ± SE, n = 5). **, p < 0.01; ***, p < 0.001."

Table 4

Correlation analysis between dry mass loss and initial chemical traits in plant litters"

相关系数 Correlation coefficient
C N 总酚
Total phenolics
C/N 总酚/C
Total phenolics/C
Total phenolics/N
Total phenolics/Lignin
B -0.291 -0.301 0.370 0.264 0.286 0.404 0.280 0.433 0.281 0.345
C 0.400 0.720** 0.002 -0.526* -0.787** -0.014 -0.518* -0.784** -0.740** 0.251
S 0.469 -0.493 -0.403 0.544* 0.516* -0.403 0.543* 0.472 0.523* -0.444
0.796* 0.531 0.801** -0.793** -0.555 0.815** -0.840** 0.870** -0.655 0.793*
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