Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2019, Vol. 43 ›› Issue (8): 648-657.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2019.0097

• Reviews • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Litter decomposition and its underlying mechanisms

JIA Bing-Rui()   

  1. State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China
  • Received:2019-04-27 Revised:2019-07-10 Online:2020-01-03 Published:2019-08-20
  • Contact: JIA Bing-Rui ORCID:0000-0001-9662-0738
  • Supported by:
    National Key R&D Program of China(2017YFC0503906);China Special Fund for Meteorological Research in the Public Interest(气象科研专项经费项目GYHY201406034)


In order to understand the research progress of litter decomposition and its underlying mechanisms, this paper presented a bibliometric analysis of litter decomposition in China from 1986 to 2018 based on the four common literature databases, including CNKI, ISI Web of Science, ScienceDirect and Springer Link. Litter decomposition researches are mainly from forest ecosystems (65%), and focus on above-ground litter. This suggests that the studies on below-ground litter decomposition should be strengthened in the future. About 68% studies focused on the litters from dominant species, which couldn’t represent the natural decomposition characteristics due to the mixed effects among litters from multiple species. Besides carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus, we should pay more attention to other key chemical components related with decomposition (e.g. K, Fe, Mn, lignin, tannin, etc.) and the heavy metal elements related with environmental pollution. Meanwhile, ecological stoichiometry is an effective method to interlink the biogeochemical cycle in the plant-litter-soil system. Nitrogen deposition and climate change are hot topics in the field of litter decomposition, especially the interactions of multiple factors (e.g. nitrogen, phosphorus, etc.), temperature sensitivity of litter decomposition and underlying mechanisms in permafrost under climate warming context.

Key words: litter decomposition, China, bibliometrics, ecological stoichiometry

Fig. 1

Bibliometric analysis on the litter decomposition in different vegetation types in China. A, Interannual dynamics between 1986 and 2018. B, Classification with research objects, including above-ground, below-ground, above- and below-ground litter. White column represents leaf litter."

Table 1

Classical articles in the field of litter decomposition research "

序号 No. 文献 Reference 备注 Note
1 Melin, 1930 首次使用碳氮比来分析北美几种森林凋落物的分解特征, 后来成为评价凋落物分解的经典指标。
The carbon:nitrogen ratio was firstly related to litter decomposition in North American forests, and became a common indicator.
2 Gustafson, 1943 针叶分解过程中形成的酸性物质抑制了细菌活性, 而阔叶含有大量的钙能够起到中和作用, 从而提高针阔叶混合凋落物的分解速率。
The needles produced an acid reaction, which would suppress bacterial activity, but the broadleaves with high calcium content could neutralize the decaying material and enhance the decompose rates.
3 Bocock & Gilbert, 1957 首次使用尼龙网替代金属或木质材料作为分解容器, 即: 分解实验中应用最广泛的分解袋法。
The metal or wooden containers were substituted with nylon mesh bags. Litter-bag method is the most common method for litter decomposition measurement.
4 Olson, 1963 提出负指数衰减模型来描述凋落物物质残留与分解时间的关系, 是凋落物分解过程失重率研究常采用的模型。
Litter mass remaining rate with time was simulated with the negative exponential declining model, which is widely used to describe litter decomposition.
5 Fogel & Cromack Jr., 1977 提出氮和木质素是影响凋落物分解速率和模式的重要因素, 至今两者在分解中的调控作用仍然是研究的重点。
Litter decomposition was closely correlated with nitrogen and lignin content, which are still the important research contents up to now.
6 Vossbrinck et al., 1979 用不同孔径分解袋和杀菌处理来区分微生物、土壤动物和非生物因素的贡献, 发现无生物作用的分解速率为7%, 只有微生物作用的分解速率为15%, 三者共同作用的分解速率为29%。
The chemicals and two mesh sizes were used to partition the abiotic, microbial and mesofaunal effects. Litter was decomposed 7% in the abiotic treatment, 15% in the microbial treatment, and 29% in the microbial and mesofaunal treatment.
7 Taylor et al., 1989 凋落物在分解前期主要受氮限制, 后期为木质素浓度或木质素/氮限制。
As decay proceeded, the main influencing factors were shifted from nitrogen to lignin or lignin:nitrogen ratio.
8 Vitousek et al., 1994 基于CENTURY模型构建凋落物分解模型, 把植物残体分为代谢物质和结构物质。代谢物质易于快速分解, 而结构物质的分解速率可表达为木质素/纤维素的函数, 比值越高分解越慢。
Litter decomposition was simulated with a revision of CENTURY model. Plant residue was divided into metabolic and structural matter. Metabolic matter is easy to decompose. Structural matter could be expressed with the lignin:cellulose ratio, and the higher the ratio the slower the decomposition rate.
9 Bosatta & Ågren, 1999 根据酶动力学的基本原理, 凋落物分解的温度敏感性与凋落物碳质量呈负相关关系, 即“碳质量-温度”假说。
Based on the theory of enzyme kinetics, the sensitivity of litter decomposition to temperature is negative with its quality, i.e. “carbon quality-temperature” hypothesis.
10 Gartner & Cardon, 2004 非加和效应在混合凋落物分解质量损失和养分释放中分别占67%和76%。
Non-additive effects of mass loss and nutrient release were observed in 67% and 76% of tested litter mixtures, respectively.

Table 2

Current hot articles in the field of litter decomposition"

序号 No. 文献 Reference 备注 Note
1 Fierer et al., 2005 随着凋落物碳质量降低, 凋落物分解的温度敏感性逐渐升高, 验证了“碳质量-温度”假说。
As litter carbon quality declined, litter decomposition became more sensitive to temperature, and the “carbon quality-temperature” hypothesis was tested.
2 Knorr et al., 2005 氮沉降促进高质量凋落物(即低木质素含量)分解, 而抑制低质量凋落物(即高木质素含量)。
Litter decomposition was stimulated by nitrogen additions for high-quality (low-lignin) litters, but inhibited for low-quality (high-lignin) litters.
3 Austin & Vivanco, 2006 光降解作用是半干旱区地上凋落物分解的主要方式, UV-B和总辐射分别占33%和60%。
Litter decomposition in a semi-arid ecosystem was mainly controlled by photodegradation, UV-B and total radiation accounting for 33% and 60%, respectively.
4 Parton et al., 2007 全球7个生物系21个地点历经10年的凋落物分解元素释放试验表明, 叶凋落物初始氮含量及其分解剩余量是氮净释放的主要驱动力(不包括高UV辐射下的干草原)。
A 10-year leaf litter decomposition experiment in 21 sites from seven biomes found that net nitrogen release is mainly driven by the initial nitrogen concentration and mass remaining (not including arid grasslands exposed to high ultraviolet radiation).
5 Cornwell et al., 2008 对六大洲818种植物凋落物分解研究发现, 物种间基质质量对分解速率的影响远大于气候因素。
The litter decomposition experiments from 818 species on six continents found that the magnitude of species-driven differences is much greater than climate-driven variation.
6 Zhang et al., 2008 凋落物质量可以解释全球凋落物分解速率70%的变动, 与纬度和年平均气温结合后解释率提升为88%。
Total nutrient elements (TN) and C:N accounted for 70% of the variation in the litter decomposition rates. The combination of TN, C:N, latitude and mean annual temperature accounted for 88% of the variation.
7 Kaspari et al., 2008 磷添加提高叶凋落物分解速率30%, 而微量元素添加则提高81%, 说明除磷之外还有其他元素可能参与并促进凋落物的分解。
Leaf litter decomposed 33% faster with phosphorus (P) addition and 81% faster with micronutrient additions. Besides P, other micronutrients could also enhance litter decomposition.
8 Coq et al., 2010 对16个热带雨林树种研究发现, 虽然凋落叶的缩合单宁占凋落物干重比例很小(<3.7%), 却能够显著降低凋落物分解速率。
The condensed tannin could significantly decrease litter decomposition rates, though its low concentration (0-3.7% dry mass) among 16 tropical rain forest tree species.
9 Manzoni et al., 2010 将凋落物分解的化学计量学模型扩展到全球尺度(从北极到热带), 包括磷矿化、有机营养的物理流失和凋落物层的化学异质性。
A stoichiometric model of litter decomposition was extended to global scale (from artic to tropical ecosystems), including phosphorus mineralization, physical losses of organic nutrients, and chemical heterogeneity of litter substrates.
10 Sun et al., 2018 阔叶红松林35种木本植物6年内叶片分解77%, 而根尖仅分解35%; 与叶分解调控因素不同, 非结构性碳水化合物及次生代谢产物对细根分解起主导作用, 该研究改变了人们以叶分解速率及调控因素来推测根系分解的认识。
Among 35 temperate forest species over six years, the decomposition rates of finest roots (35%) were lower than those of leaf litter (77%). In contrast to lignin:nitrogen ratio control over leaf decomposition, nonlignin carbon compounds were the main factors for roots. Leaf decomposition patterns are inadequate to describe decomposition of the finest roots.

Fig. 2

Bibliometric analysis on the single and mixed litter decomposition researches. White column and black dots represent the researches of mixture effects."

Fig. 3

Bibliometric analysis on the chemical elements of litter decomposition."

Fig. 4

Bibliometric analysis on the biotic factors of litter decomposition."

Fig. 5

Bibliometric analysis on the research hotspots of litter decomposition."

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