Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Scientific Reports






A feedback between decomposition and litter chemical composition occurs with decomposition altering composition that in turn influences the decomposition rate. Elucidating the temporal pattern of chemical composition is vital to understand this feedback, but the effects of plant species and climate on chemical changes remain poorly understood, especially over multiple years. In a 10-year decomposition experiment with litter of four species (Acer saccharum, Drypetes glauca, Pinus resinosa, and Thuja plicata) from four sites that range from the arctic to tropics, we determined the abundance of 11 litter chemical constituents that were grouped into waxes, carbohydrates, lignin/tannins, and proteins/peptides using advanced 13C solid-state NMR techniques. Decomposition generally led to an enrichment of waxes and a depletion of carbohydrates, whereas the changes of other chemical constituents were inconsistent. Inconsistent convergence in chemical compositions during decomposition was observed among different litter species across a range of site conditions, whereas one litter species converged under different climate conditions. Our data clearly demonstrate that plant species rather than climate greatly alters the temporal pattern of litter chemical composition, suggesting the decomposition-chemistry feedback varies among different plant species.

Original Publication Citation

Li, Y.F., Chen, N., Harmon, M.E., Li, Y., Cao, X.Y., Chappell, M.A., & Mao, J.D. (2015). Plant species rather than climate greatly alters the temporal pattern of litter chemical composition during long-term decomposition. Scientific Reports, 5, 1-13. doi: 10.1038/srep15783