Effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation and litter layer thickness on litter decomposition of two tree species in a semi-arid site of Northeast China

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Abstract

Forests and grasslands in arid and semi-arid regions receive high-intensity ultraviolet (UV) radiation year-round. However, how the UV radiation affects the litter decomposition on the forest floor remains unclear. Here, we conducted a field-based experiment in 2011 in the southeastern Horqin Sandy Land, Northeast China, to investigate the effects of UV radiation, litter layer thickness, and their interaction on the mass loss and chemical properties of decomposing litter from Xiaozhuan poplar (Populus × xiaozhuanica) and Mongolian pine (Pinus sylvestris var. mongolica) plantation trees. We found that UV radiation accelerated the decomposition rates of both the Xiaozhuan poplar litter and Mongolian pine litter. For both species, the thick-layered litter had a lower mass loss than the thin-layered litter. The interaction between UV radiation and litter layer thickness significantly affected the litter mass loss of both tree species. However, the effects of UV radiation on the chemical properties of decomposing litter differed between the two species, which may be attributed to the contrasting initial leaf litter chemical properties and morphology. UV radiation mostly had positive effects on the lignin concentration and lignin/N ratio of Xiaozhuan poplar litter, while it had negative effects on the N concentration of Mongolian pine litter. Moreover, litter layer thickness and its interaction with UV radiation showed mostly positive effects on the N concentration and lignin/N ratio of Xiaozhuan poplar litter and the ratios of C/N and lignin/N of Mongolian pine litter, and mostly negative effects on the C/N ratio of Xiaozhuan poplar litter and the N concentration of Mongolian pine litter. Together, these results reveal the important roles played by UV radiation and litter layer thickness in the process of litter decomposition in this semi-arid region, and highlight how changes in the litter layer thickness can exert strong influences on the photodegradation of litter in tree plantations.

Keywords

lignin litter decomposition litter layer thickness nitrogen forest plantation photodegradation UV radiation 

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31270668, 41373038), the National Basic Research Program of China (2012CB416902) and the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2016M601342). We thank two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions. Special thanks are extended to LI Jingshi and AI Guiyan for their laboratory analyses.

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Copyright information

© Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CAS Key Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Management, Institute of Applied EcologyChinese Academy of SciencesShenyangChina
  2. 2.College of HorticultureJilin Agricultural UniversityChangchunChina
  3. 3.Daqinggou Ecological Station, Institute of Applied EcologyChinese Academy of SciencesShenyangChina

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