Decreased community litter decomposition associated with nitrogen-induced convergence in leaf traits in an alpine meadow

Ming Hua Song*, Jin Chen, Xing Liang Xu, Fei Hai Yu, Jing Jiang, Li Li Zheng, Johannes H.C. Cornelissen

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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    Anthropogenic activities introduce nitrogen (N) into terrestrial ecosystems, inducing changes in quantity and quality of plants. However, little is known about how do nitrogen (N)-mediated such changes alter functional diversity of green leaf traits? How does N-mediated changes in leaf quality contribute to the rate of litter decomposition at intra- or inter-species level? How can such N-mediated changes in quantity and quality be scaled up to explain and predict community-level litter decomposition? A common garden litter decomposition was conducted in an alpine meadow on the Tibetan Plateau, where six litter species and litter mixtures from the communities that had experienced eight-year N addition treatment, were subjected to decomposition for 641 days, with three harvests. For litter mixtures, littles were selected randomly from aboveground shoots collected from 0.5 × 0.5 m2 quadrats. We found that N enrichment increased green leaf and litter N concentrations, and caused small and idiosyncratic variations in phosphorus and carbon concentrations. Plasticity in leaf nutrient concentrations induced little variation in litter decomposition in the six species. Meanwhile, N enrichment induced a reduction in leaf trait diversity and community-level litter decomposition. Correspondingly, positive relationship between decomposition rate (k) and leaf trait diversity were observed. N enrichment reduced dissimilarity of leaf traits, which could relate a reduction of litter decomposition at community level. By integrating intra- and interspecific trait variation with the abundances of coexisting species, these findings can help predict ecosystem function with N enrichment.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number104332
    Pages (from-to)1-8
    Number of pages8
    JournalSoil and Tillage Research
    Early online date18 Jul 2019
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


    • Alpine meadow
    • Convergence
    • Leaf traits
    • Litter decomposition
    • N enrichment
    • Tibetan plateau


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