Journal of Earth Science

, Volume 30, Issue 5, pp 1041–1048 | Cite as

Soil Properties and Plant Growth Response to Litter in a Prolonged Enclosed Grassland of Loess Plateau, China

  • Yunwu XiongEmail author
  • Bing Yu
  • Mengting Bai
  • Xueyang Zhang
  • Guanhua Huang
  • Alex Furman
Paleontology, Environmental Geology and Planetary Geology


The enclosure and ungrazing practices for grassland management result in accumulation of plant litter on soil surface thus affecting the available soil water and nutrients for plant production. We experimentally investigated the effects of litter on soil properties and plant growth in a prolonged enclosure grassland of Loess Plateau, China. Three different litter manipulations were conducted including removal of all litter, an untreated in-situ control with original litter levels, and a double litter treatment. Litter treatment experiments demonstrated that plant litter affected the superficial soil water. Soil water content in plots with in-situ or double litter is generally higher than that with litter removal. The depletion of soil water up to five days post rainfall is fastest in litter removal plots for the top soil, but no evident difference for the deep ones. Different litter treatments have no significant impact on soil total carbon, nitrogen as well as carbon/nitrogen ratio for consecutive two years experiments. Both above- and below-ground biomasses in plots of litter removal were less than those in the plots of in-situ and double litter treatment. Litter affects plant production mainly through the mechanical barrier regulating root zone soil moisture. Therefore, prolonged litter manipulation experiments are desirable to understand the long-term response of plant growth on litter from nutrient aspect.

Key words

soil moisture ungrazed grassland Stripa bungeana litter manipulation 


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This research was partially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41201037) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (No. 2014XJ024). The final publication is available at Springer via

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Copyright information

© China University of Geosciences (Wuhan) and Springer Verlag GmbH Germany, Part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Water Resources & Civil EngineeringChina Agricultural UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Chinese-Israeli International Center for Research and Training in AgricultureChina Agricultural UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.Civil and Environmental EngineeringTechnion-Israel Institute of TechnologyHaifaIsrael

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