Climate, plant organs and species control dissolved nitrogen and phosphorus in fresh litter in a subalpine forest on the eastern Tibetan Plateau

  • Yu Zhang
  • Jiaping Yang
  • Wanqin Yang
  • Bo Tan
  • Changkun Fu
  • Fuzhong WuEmail author
Research Paper


Key message

Fresh litter contains a higher concentration of dissolved phosphorus (DP) than dissolved nitrogen (DN), which implies a more efficient DN transformation or reabsorption in the subalpine forest on the eastern Tibetan Plateau. Both DN and DP concentrations increased with the increase of mean monthly temperature, although the concentrations were also regulated by plant organs and species.


The dissolved nitrogen (DN) and dissolved phosphorus (DP) released from fresh litter are important pathways by which total nitrogen and phosphorus are transferred from the vegetation to soil in forest ecosystems. However, few studies have paid attention to the DN and DP in fresh litter, which affects our understanding of the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles.


The objectives of this study were to elucidate the dynamic characteristics of the concentrations and storage of DN and DP, and to analyze how DN and DP are affected by different plant species and organs, and climate factors.


Fresh litter was collected in three plots in a spruce-fir forest and classified by different plant species and organs. Concentration and storage of DN and DP in fresh litter were determined and related to the climatic variables that were monthly recorded.


The concentration of DP was higher than that of DN in fresh litter, and the concentrations of both elements were determined by plant organs and species. Moreover, The DN and DP concentration was positively related to mean monthly temperature, while DN and DP storage was negatively correlated with mean monthly temperature and monthly precipitation. The storage of DN and DP was determined by litter biomass, which the order in litter from different plant organs was leaves>twigs>miscellaneous>flowers and fruits. The storage of DN and DP in leaves showed two peaks in April and October, but that in twigs and the miscellaneous showed only one peak in October.


Our results indicated that dissolved nitrogen (DN) is transferred and reabsorbed more than dissolved phosphorus (DP) before plant leaf senescence and other organs fall. Furthermore, DN and DP were associated with climate, plant organs and species in a subalpine forest on the eastern Tibetan Plateau.


Fresh litter Dissolved nitrogen Dissolved phosphorus Climate Plant organs and species Subalpine forest 



We thank the chief editor Dr. Erwin Dreyer, the handing editor, and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments on the early versions of the manuscript. We are also grateful to Dr. Chengming You, Mr. Ziyi Liang, Mr. Junwei Wu, Mr. juyi Hu and Mr. Zhuang Wang for their help with field sampling and the laboratory analyses. We are grateful to American Journal Experts for editing the language of the article.


This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31622018, 31670526 and 31570445) and the Sichuan Provincial Science and Technology Project for the Youth Innovation Team (2017TD0022).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yu Zhang
    • 1
  • Jiaping Yang
    • 1
  • Wanqin Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Bo Tan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Changkun Fu
    • 1
  • Fuzhong Wu
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Long-term Research Station of Alpine Forest Ecosystem, Provincial Key Laboratory of Ecological Forestry Engineering, Institute of Ecology and ForestrySichuan Agricultural UniversityChengduPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Collaborative Innovation Centre of Ecological Security in the Upper Reaches of the Yangtze RiverChengduPeople’s Republic of China

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