Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2009, Vol. 33 ›› Issue (6): 1208-1219.DOI: 10.3773/j.issn.1005-264x.2009.06.022

• Original article • Previous Articles     Next Articles


XU Zhen-Feng1,2, YIN Hua-Jun1, ZHAO Chun-Zhang1, CAO Gang1, WAN Ming-Li1, LIU Qing1,*()   

  1. 1 Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu 610041, China
    2 Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2009-04-02 Accepted:2009-07-13 Online:2009-11-30 Published:2021-04-29
  • Contact: LIU Qing


Litter decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems, an important process in the global carbon budget, is mainly controlled by climate, litter quality and soil organisms. Scientists generally think that global warming could have profound and complicated effects on litter decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems. In this review, we summarized results from microcosm studies,in situ artificial warming experiments and natural gradient research to evaluate direct effects (temperature increment on litter decomposition rates) and indirect effects (temperature increment on litter quality, soil organisms and vegetation) of global warming on litter decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems. Each method of study indicated that temperature elevation can often increase litter decomposition rates when litter moisture is maintained. Experimental warming studies implied that litter decomposition rates vary among species, methods and geographical sites. Global warming is likely to alter litter quality and decomposability, but these changes will not influence short-term litter decomposition rates. Interspecific differences in litter quality and decomposability are dramatically stronger than warming-induced differences. Thus, warming-induced changes in species composition and community structure may have stronger impacts on litter decomposition processes in terrestrial ecosystems. Effects of warming-induced changes in soil organisms on litter decomposition are highly uncertain.

Key words: litter decomposition, global climate change, microcosm study, simulated global warming, gradient studies, litter quality, soil organism, plant functional types