Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2013, Vol. 37 ›› Issue (4): 306-316.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1258.2013.00030

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effect of snow patches on leaf litter mass loss of two shrubs in an alpine forest

HE Wei, WU Fu-Zhong, YANG Wan-Qin*, WU Qi-Qian, HE Min, and ZHAO Ye-Yi   

  1. Key Laboratory of Ecological Forestry Engineering of Sichuan Province, Institute of Ecological Forestry, Sichuan Agricultural University, Chengdu 611130, China
  • Received:2012-10-22 Revised:2013-03-05 Online:2013-04-09 Published:2013-04-01
  • Contact: YANG Wan-Qin
  • Supported by:

    ;the Program of Sichuan Youth Sci-tech Foundation;China Postdoctoral Science Foundation


Aims Litter decomposition of understory species is one of the essential components in material cycling and other important processes in alpine/subalpine forest ecosystems. Natural snow patches with different snow depths in winter could play an important role in litter decomposition due to significantly different freeze-thaw characters, but little information has been available. Therefore, our objective was to understand the effects of snow patches on litter decomposition of dwarf bamboo (Fargesia nitida) and salix (Salix paraplesia), two representative understory shrubs in alpine forest.
Methods A field experiment using litterbags was conducted in an alpine forest in western Sichuan, China. Samples of air-dried leaf litter were placed in nylon litterbags, and the litterbags were placed on the forest floor along a snow depth gradient from forest gap to canopy cover. Five snow patches with different snow depths were selected: thickest snow cover patch (SP1), thicker snow cover patch (SP2), middle thick snow cover patch (SP3), thinner snow cover patch (SP4) and no snow cover patch (SP5). Mass loss was measured at five critical periods as decomposition proceeded (onset of soil freezing period, soil freezing period, soil thawing period, early growth period and later growth period) of the first year of decomposition.
Important findings Mass loss of dwarf bamboo and salix litters in the freeze-thaw season accounted for (48.78 ± 2.35)% and (46.60 ± 5.02)% of the first year of litter decomposition, respectively. Both litters displayed higher mass loss rate under the patches with snow cover compared with no snow patch in the freeze-thaw season, but showed higher mass loss rate under SP5 in the growth season. Over the first year of decomposition, although mass loss rate of bamboo litter increased with the increase of winter-snow depth, salix litter showed the highest value under SP4 and lowest value under SP5. In addition, correlation analysis indicated that mass loss rate in the freeze-thaw season was positively related to daily mean temperature and negative cumulative temperature, whereas mass loss rate in the growth season was not related to any investigated temperature factors. However, 1-year mass loss rate was significantly related to daily mean temperature and negative/positive cumulative temperature. These results indicated that change of snow pattern would have significant effects on understory litter decomposition in the alpine forest in the scenario of warmer winters, but the effects could be various in different kinds of litter.

[1]Aerts R, Callaghan TV, Dorrepaal E, van Logtestijn RSP, Cornelissen JHC (2012). Seasonal climate manipulations have only minor effects on litter decomposition rates and N dynamics but strong effects on litter P dynamics of sub-arctic bog species. Oecologia, 170, 809–819. Crossref
[2]Baptist F, Yoccoz NG, Choler P (2010). Direct and indirect control by snow cover over decomposition in alpine tundra along a snowmelt gradient. Plant and Soil, 328, 397– 410. Crossref
[3]Berg B, McClaugherty C (2008). Plant Litter: Decomposition, Humus Formation, Carbon Sequestration. 2nd edn. Springer, New York.
[4]Bokhorst S, Bjerke JW, Melillo J, Callaghan TV, Phoenix GK (2010). Impacts of extreme winter warming events on litter decomposition in a sub-Arctic heathland. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 42, 611–617. Crossref
[5]Campebll JL, Mitchell MJ, Groffman PM, Christenson LM, Hardy JP (2005). Winter in northeastern North America: a critical period for ecological processes. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 3, 314–322. Crossref
[6]Christenson LM, Mitchell MJ, Groffman PM, Loveit GM (2010). Winter climate change implications for decomposition in northeastern forests: comparisons of sugar maple litter with herbivore fecal inputs. Global Change Biology, 16, 2589–2601. Crossref
[7]Clein JS, Schimel JP (1995). Microbial activity of tundra and taiga soils at sub-zero temperatures. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 27, 1231–1234.
[8]Colbeck SC (1983). Theory of metamorphism of dry snow. Journal of Geophysical Research, 88, 5475–5482. [9]Couteaux MM, Bottner P, Berg B (1995). Litter decomposition, climate and litter quality. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 10, 63–66.
[10]Deng RJ, Yang WQ, Feng RF, Hu JL, Qin JL, Xiong XJ (2009). Mass loss and element release of litter in the subalpine forest over one freeze-thaw season. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 29, 5730–5735. (in Chinese with English abstract) [邓仁菊, 杨万勤, 冯瑞芳, 胡建利, 秦嘉励, 熊雪晶 (2009). 季节性冻融期间亚高山森林凋落物的质量损失及元素释放. 生态学报, 29, 5730–5735.]
[11]Edwards AC, Scalenghe R, Freppaz M (2007). Changes in the seasonal snow cover of alpine regions and its effect on soil processes: a review. Quaternary International, 162–163, 172–181. Crossref
[12]Freppaz M, Celi L, Marchelli M, Zanini E (2008). Snow removal and its influence on temperature and N dynamics in alpine soils (Vallée d’Aoste, northwest Italy). Journal of Plant Nutrients and Soil Science, 171, 672–680. [13]Gavazov KS (2010). Dynamics of alpine plant litter decomposition in a changing climate. Plant and Soil, 337, 19–32. Crossref
[14]Groffman PM, Driscoll CT, Fahey TJ, Hardy JP, Fitzhugh RD, Tierney GL (2001). Effects of mild winter freezing on soil nitrogen and carbon dynamics in northern hardwood forest. Biogeochemistry, 56, 191–213. Crossref
[15]Hobbie SE, Chapin FS (1996). Winter regulation of tundra litter carbon and nitrogen dynamics. Biogeochemistry, 35, 327–338. Crossref
[16]Hu X, Wu N, Wu Y, Zuo WQ, Guo HX, Wang JN (2012). Effects of snow cover on the decomposition and nutrient dynamics of Sibiraea angustata leaf litter in western Sichuan plateau, Southwest China. Chinese Journal of Applied Ecology, 23, 1226–1232. (in Chinese with English abstract) [胡霞, 吴宁, 吴彦, 左万庆, 郭海霞, 王金牛 (2012). 川西高原季节性雪被覆盖对窄叶鲜卑花凋落物分解和养分动态的影响. 应用生态学报, 23, 1226– 1232.] Crossref
[17]Keane RE (2008). Biophysical controls on surface fuel litterfall and decomposition in the northern Rocky Mountains, USA. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 38, 1431–1445. Crossref
[18]Lemma B, Nilsson I, Kleja DB, Olsson M, Knicker H (2007). Decomposition and substrate quality of leaf litters and fine roots from three exotic plantations and a native forest in the southwestern highlands of Ethiopia. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 39, 2317–2328. Crossref
[19]Liu L, Wu FZ, Yang WQ, Wang A, Tan B, Yu S (2010). Soil bacterial diversity in the subalpine/alpine forests of western Sichuan at the early stage of freeze-thaw season. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 30, 5687–5694. (in Chinese with English abstract) [刘利, 吴福忠, 杨万勤, 王奥, 谭波, 余胜 (2010). 季节性冻结初期川西亚高山/高山森林土壤细菌多样性. 生态学报, 30, 5687–5694.] Crossref
[20]Prescott CE (2010). Litter decomposition: what controls it and how can we alter it to sequester more carbon in forest soils? Biogeochemistry, 101, 133–149. Crossref
[21]Rief A, Knapp BA, Seeber J (2012). Palatability of selected alpine plant litters for the decomposer Lumbricus rubellus (Lumbricidae). PLoS ONE, 7, e45345. Crossref
[22]Saccone P, Morin S, Baptist F, Bonneville JM, Colace MP, Domine F, Faure M, Geremia R, Lochet J, Poly F, Lavorel S, Clement JC (2012). The effects of snowpack properties and plant strategies on litter decomposition during winter in subalpine meadows. Plant and Soil, 363, 1–2.
[23]Tan B, Wu FZ, Yang WQ, Liu L, Yu S (2010). Characteristics of soil animal community in the subalpine/alpine forests of western Sichuan during onset of freezing. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 30, 93–99. Crossref
[24]Tan B, Wu FZ, Yang WQ, Yu S, Yang YL, Wang A (2011). Soil hydrolase characteristics in late soil-thawing period in subalpine/alpine forests of west Sichuan. Chinese Journal of Applied Ecology, 22, 1162–1168. (in Chinese with English abstract) [谭波, 吴福忠, 杨万勤, 余胜, 杨玉莲, 王奥 (2011). 冻融末期川西亚高山/高山森林土壤水解酶活性特征. 应用生态学报, 22, 1162–1168.] Crossref
[25]Taylor BR, Parkinson D (1988). Does repeated freezing and thawing accelerate decay of leaf litter? Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 20, 657–665.
[26]Taylor BR, Parkinson D, Parsons WFJ (1989). Nitrogen and lignin content as predictors of litter decay rates: a microcosm test. Ecology, 70, 97–104. Crossref
[27]Uchida M, Mo WD, Nakatsubo T, Tsuchiya Y, Horikoshi T, Koizumi H (2005). Microbial activity and litter decomposition under snow cover in a cool-temperate broad-leaved deciduous forest. Agricultural Forest Meteorology, 134, 102–109. Crossref
[28]Wu FZ, Yang WQ, Zhang J, Deng RJ (2010). Litter decomposition in two subalpine forests during the freeze-thaw season. Acta Oecologica, 36, 135–140. Crossref
[29]Xia L, Wu FZ, Yang WQ (2011). Contribution of soil fauna to mass loss of Abies faxoniana leaf litter during the freeze-thaw season. Chinese Journal of Plant Ecology, 35, 1127–1135. (in Chinese with English abstract) [夏磊, 吴福忠, 杨万勤 (2011). 季节性冻融期间土壤动物对岷江冷杉凋落叶质量损失的贡献. 植物生态学报, 35, 1127–1135.] Crossref
[30]Xu ZF, Yin HJ, Zhao CZ, Cao G, Wan ML, Liu Q (2009). A review of responses of litter decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems to global warming. Chinese Journal of Plant Ecology, 33, 1208–1219. (in Chinese with English abstract) [徐振锋, 尹华军, 赵春章, 曹刚, 万名利, 刘庆 (2009). 陆地生态系统凋落物分解对全球气候变暖的响应. 植物生态学报, 33, 1208–1219.] Crossref
[31]Yang WQ, Wang KY, Kellomäki S, Gong HD (2005). Litter dynamics of three subalpine forests in Western Sichuan. Pedosphere, 15, 653–659. Crossref
[32]Yang WQ, Wang KY, Kellomäki S, Zhang J (2006). Annual and monthly variations in litter macronutrients of three subalpine forests in western China. Pedosphere, 16, 788–798.
[33]Yang WQ, Feng RF, Zhang J, Wang KY (2007). Carbon stock and biochemical properties in the organic layer and mineral soil under three subalpine forests in Western China. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 27, 4157–4165. (in Chinese with English abstract) [杨万勤, 冯瑞芳, 张健, 王开运 (2007). 中国西部3个亚高山森林土壤有机层和矿质层碳储量和生化特性. 生态学报, 27, 4157–4165.] Crossref
[34]Yang YL, Wu FZ, He ZH, Xu ZF, Liu Y, Yang WQ, Tan B (2012). Effect of snow pack removal on soil microbial biomass carbon and nitrogen and the number of soil culturable microorganisms during wintertime in alpine Abies faxoniana forest of western Sichuan, Southwest China. Chinese Journal of Applied Ecology, 23, 1809–1816. (in Chinese with English abstract) [杨玉莲, 吴福忠, 何振华, 徐振锋, 刘洋, 杨万勤, 谭波 (2012). 雪被去除对川西高山冷杉林冬季土壤微生物生物量碳氮和可培养微生物数量的影响. 应用生态学报, 23, 1809–1816.]Crossref
[35]Zhu JX, He XH, Wu FZ, Yang WQ, Tan B (2012). Decomposition of Abies faxoniana litter varies with freeze-thaw stages and altitudes in subalpine/alpine forests of southwest China. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 27, 586–596. Crossref
No related articles found!
Full text



[1] Yan Xiao-hua Cai Zhu-ping. Effects of S-07, PP333 and Triadimefon on Peroxidaseisoentyme of Rice Seedling[J]. Chin Bull Bot, 1995, 12(专辑3): 109 -112 .
[2] . [J]. Chin Bull Bot, 1994, 11(专辑): 13 .
[3] Xiaomin Yu;Xingguo Lan;Yuhua Li. The Ub/26S Proteasome Pathway and Self-incompatible Responses in Flowering Plants[J]. Chin Bull Bot, 2006, 23(2): 197 -206 .
[4] WANG Ling-Li LIU Wen-Zhe. Contents of Camptothecin in Camptotheca acuminata from Different Provenances[J]. Chin Bull Bot, 2005, 22(05): 584 -589 .
[5] Dai Yun-ling and Xu Chun-hui. Advances in Research on Protein Components of Oxygen-evolving Complex[J]. Chin Bull Bot, 1992, 9(03): 1 -16 .
[6] . Advances in Research on Photosynthesis of Submerged Macrophytes[J]. Chin Bull Bot, 2005, 22(增刊): 128 -138 .
[7] Shaobin Zhang;Guoqin Liu. Research Advances in Plant Actin Isoforms[J]. Chin Bull Bot, 2006, 23(3): 242 -248 .
[9] MA Li-Hui, WU Pu-Te, and WANG You-Ke. Spatial pattern of root systems of dense jujube plantation with jujube age in the semiarid loess hilly region of China[J]. Chin J Plan Ecolo, 2012, 36(4): 292 -301 .
[10] PAN Yu-De, Melillo J. M., Kicklighter D. W., XIAO Xiang-Ming, McGuire A. D.. Modeling Structural and Functional Responses of Terrestria Ecosystems in China to Changes in Climate and Atmospheric CO2[J]. Chin J Plan Ecolo, 2001, 25(2): 175 -189 .