Abiotic factors affect leaf litter mass loss more strongly than initial litter traits under sand burial conditions

Hao Qu*, Xueyong Zhao, Shaokun Wang, Jie Lian, Xia Tang, Xinyuan Wang, Rui Zhang, Eduardo Medina-Roldán

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Litter decomposition is an important ecosystem process and a key determinant of nutrient turnover and carbon cycling in arid and semiarid regions. Sand burial is common in arid and semiarid regions and may strongly influence litter decomposition. However, the main factors influencing litter decomposition under sand burial conditions are uncertain. We performed a litter bag experiment over 3 years to understand the effects of sand burial on litter mass loss and measured abiotic factors (light intensity, soil temperature and humidity) and initial litter traits to determine which factors most influenced litter mass losses. The leaf litters of three dominant shrubs (Artemisia halodendron, Caragana microphylla, and Salix gordejevii) in the Horqin Sandy Land of northern China were selected, and four burial depths (surface, 5 cm, 10 cm, and 20 cm) were used. The results showed that the litter from the three shrubs under the surface treatment (no burial) and at the 5 cm burial depth decomposed more rapidly than the litter that was buried at depths of 10 cm and 20 cm. This is explained because the abiotic factors on the surface and at 5 cm burial depth were conducive for the mass loss of litter. The differences in litter mass losses among the three shrubs were not significant under other burial treatments, except that A. halodendron's litter decomposed significantly faster than litter from the other two shrubs at depths of 10 cm. Species differences in litter traits were weaker than the effects of burial depths and retrieval times on litter mass loss. The stepwise regression analysis showed that light intensity and soil temperature were the most important factors influencing the mean litter mass loss of 3 years. Therefore, we concluded that relative to the initial litter traits, abiotic factors are more able to indicate the leaf litter mass loss under sand burial conditions, and abiotic factors limiting litter mass loss switch with burial depths.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104900
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Horqin Sandy Land
  • Light intensity
  • Litter mass loss
  • Sand burial
  • Shrubs


Dive into the research topics of 'Abiotic factors affect leaf litter mass loss more strongly than initial litter traits under sand burial conditions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this