Aims The nitrogen and phosphorus characteristics of plants represent plant features and responses to environmental factors. Our objectives are to distinguish leaf and litter C : N : P stoichiometric characteristics, nitrogen and phosphorus resorption of trees, and the relationship between stoichiometric ratio and temperature and precipitation for four typical regions in China.
Methods We studied temperate coniferous, subtropical evergreen broad-leaved, tropical monsoon and tropical plantation forest in the Changbaishan, Dinghushan, Xishuangbanna and Qianyanzhou Ecological Stations, respectively. We analyzed leaf and litter C : N : P, N, P and the relation of N, P nutrition limitation at each station.
Important findings Leaf C : N : P in temperate needle and broad-leaved mixed, subtropical evergreen broad-leaved, tropical rain and subtropical plantation forests were 321 : 13 : 1, 561 : 22 : 1, 442 : 19 : 1 and 728 : 18 : 1, respectively. Litter C : N : P of the four forest types were 552 : 14 : 1, 1 305 : 35 : 1, 723 : 24 : 1, 1 950 : 27 : 1, respectively. The C : N of evergreen coniferous forest is higher than in evergreen broad-leaved and deciduous broad-leaved forests, but C : P has no relationship with forest type. Leaf N : P was highest in evergreen broad-leaved forest and lowest in deciduous broad-leaved forest. Plant N : P has a linear relation with latitude and mean monthly temperature, but neither N or P concentration has such a relationship. Plant at high latitude are easily limited by N, those in low latitude are easily limited by P, but results show that plants limited by N or P don’t have higher N or P resorption. Stoichiometric ratios of leaf and litter are consistent, but environmental factors have different effects on different kinds of plant.