Decomposition of Abies faxoniana litter varies with freeze-thaw stages and altitudes in subalpine/alpine forests of southwest China
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Natural Sciences
Freeze-thaw events in winter may affect litter decomposition in cold biomes but few reports are available. We characterized the fir (Abies faxoniana) litter decomposition over a whole winter (November 2008 to April 2009) during the late autumn, deep winter, and early spring stages. The mass loss, nutrient release, and quality change of fir litter were determined using the litterbag method at 2700, 3000, 3300, and 3600 m altitude in southwest China. Over the winter an average of 18% mass, 27% C, 50% N, 40% P, 36% K, 30% cellulose, and 14% lignin were lost. Of these total losses, a majority loss of mass (70%), C (65%), N (50%), P (58%), K (42%), cellulose (70%), and lignin (68%) occurred during the deep winter stage. The highest loss rate of mass (19.2%) and lignin (16.4%) but the lowest N loss (47.9%) was at the highest 3600 m altitude. Soil freeze-thaw cycle resulted in significant losses of mass, while mass loss rate did not increase under the higher mean soil temperature during each stage. Our results confirmed that the physical process seemed to be the most important process for cold season decomposition in the cold biome.