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Indirect effects of precipitation variation on the decomposition process of Mongolian oak (Quercus mongolica) leaf litter

Research paper by Xuefeng Li, Shijie Han, Yan Zhang

Indexed on: 01 Oct '07Published on: 01 Oct '07Published in: Frontiers of Forestry in China



Abstract

The effect of precipitation variation on the chemistry of Mongolian oak (Quercus mongolica) leaf litters was examined by analyzing litters of Mongolia oak saplings under four precipitation gradients. The decomposing process of these leaf litters in the Mongolian oak dominated forest was assessed using litter bag method. Compared with the litters of the Mongolian oak saplings from the natural precipitation site (A), litters produced by Mongolian oak from the driest precipitation gradient (A450) had significantly higher concentrations of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) while lower acid-insoluble fraction (AIF) concentration. The decomposition study showed that A450 exhibited significantly higher decomposition rate, mineralization rates of N, P and K as well as much shorter N and P net immobilization periods. On the contrary, litters produced by seedlings from wettest gradient (A850) showed a totally opposite pattern. Litters from saplings that received comparable precipitation (A650) to those at the natural site (A) had significantly higher N concentration and faster decomposition rate as well as release rates of N, P and K. The mass loss patterns for the four litter types fitted the exponential model and the decay constant (k) can be well predicted by initial AIF/N. During the decomposition period, N concentration was best related to the percentage of mass remaining of the litters with relatively higher AIF concentrations and lower N concentrations, but the percentage of mass remaining of litters with lower AIF concentrations and higher N concentrations correlates strongly with AIF con centration. Our study proved that changes in precipitation significantly altered the litter quality, and therefore indirectly changed the decay process of leaf litters.