Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2011, Vol. 35 ›› Issue (11): 1127-1135.DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1258.2011.01127

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Contribution of soil fauna to mass loss of Abies faxoniana leaf litter during the freeze-thaw season

XIA Lei, WU Fu-Zhong, YANG Wan-Qin*()   

  1. Sichuan Provincial Key Laboratory of Ecological Forestry Engineering, Institute of Ecological Forestry, Sichuan Agricultural University, Chengdu 611130, China
  • Received:2011-07-04 Accepted:2011-07-22 Online:2011-11-01 Published:2011-11-07
  • Contact: YANG Wan-Qin
  • About author:*(


Aims Mass loss in wintertime is one of the key processes in litter decomposition in cold biomes. The contribution of soil fauna to litter decomposition has been unclear, and the contribution might be different in different winter periods (OF: the onset of the freeze-thaw season, DF: the deep frozen period and TS: the thawing stage). The objective was therefore to quantify the contributions of soil fauna to fir (Abies faxoniana) leaf litter decomposition during the freeze-thaw season.
Methods A field experiment using litterbags was conducted in an alpine fir forest from October 2010 to April 2011. Samples of air-dried fir leaf litter were placed in nylon litterbags (20 cm × 20 cm, 10 g per bag), and the edges were sealed. We investigated mass loss rates in litterbags with different mesh sizes (0.020, 0.125, 1.000 and 3.000 mm) and simultaneously analyzed contributions of micro-, meso- and macro-fauna to leaf litter decomposition.
Important findings Over the freeze-thaw season, the mass loss rates in litterbags with different mesh sizes were 12.13% (0.020 mm), 13.07% (0.125 mm), 14.95% (1.000 mm) and 18.74% (3.000 mm). Contribution percentages of all three body-size soil faunas were about 35.28%. Mass loss rates of fir leaf litter appeared consistent with the taxa and individual relative density of soil fauna. Contribution percentages of mass loss rates showed the order as micro- < meso- < macro-fauna during the three stages of the freeze-thaw season. The highest contribution percentages of micro-fauna (6.56%), meso-fauna (11.77%) and macro-fauna (21.94%) were detected at DF, OF and TS stage, respectively. However, the contribution percentages of meso- and macro-fauna during the DF stage were lower than the other two stages. The results demonstrated that soil fauna played an important role in litter decomposition during the freeze-thaw season in alpine forests of western China.

Key words: Abies faxoniana leaf litter, alpine forest, freeze-thaw season, mass loss, soil fauna