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Endogenous versus exogenous nutrient affects C, N, and P dynamics in decomposing litters in mid-subtropical forests of China

Fu-Sheng Chen, Xue Feng, Chao Liang

Ecological Research 27(5): 923-932

2012


ISSN/ISBN: 0912-3814
DOI: 10.1007/s11284-012-0970-4
Accession: 036503307

The effect of nutrient availability on litter decomposition has been a major focus of global change ecology. The relative impacts of endogenous (litter) and exogenous (soil) nutrient availability remain unclear. We studied the nutrient dynamics of decomposition in litter from two species with contrasting litter nutrient contents and stoichiometry: Pinus massoniana and Castanopsis sclerophylla. During a 54-day field incubation, we manipulated exogenous nutrient levels by adding microbially available C (+C), N (+N), P (+P), and all three (+CNP) at 9-day intervals. Relative to the no-nutrient control (CK), nutrient additions decreased organic C retention in C. sclerophylla, with the greatest effect observed in +CNP. Nitrogen content in P. massoniana litter similarly increased with nutrient addition, particularly +P and +CNP. The P addition treatments also increased P content in the litter of both species. Nitrogen content in C. sclerophylla and organic C content in P. massoniana were unaffected by nutrient additions. The C/N and C/P ratios in decomposing C. sclerophylla litter were significantly lower in the CK treatment, while those of P. massoniana litter were influenced by the interaction of nutrient addition and decomposition time. Increased availability of C, N, and P individually and collectively alters nutrient release dynamics in decomposing foliar litter. Litter quality, as determined by source species, is a key determinant of the impact of exogenous nutrient inputs. A stronger effect of P addition than N addition indicates a relatively N-rich and P-poor ecosystem.

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