Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 52, Issue 5, pp 711–724 | Cite as

Stage-specific response of litter decomposition to N and S amendments in a subtropical forest soil

  • Yehong Xu
  • Jianling Fan
  • Weixin DingEmail author
  • Roland Bol
  • Zengming Chen
  • Jiafa Luo
  • Nanthi Bolan
Original Paper


Nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S) deposition are important drivers of global climate change, but their effects on litter decomposition remain unclear in the subtropical regions. We investigated the influences of N, S, and their interactions on the decomposition of 13C-labeled Pinus massoniana leaf litter. An orthogonal experiment with three levels of N (0, 81, and 270 mg N kg−1 soil) and S (0, 121, and 405 mg S kg−1 soil) was conducted. We traced the incorporation of 13C-litter into carbon dioxide (CO2), dissolved organic C (DOC), and microbial phospholipids. Over the 420-day incubation, litter decomposition did not respond to low N and S additions but increased under high levels and combined amendments (NS). However, litter-derived CO2 emissions were enhanced during the first 56 days, with a positive interaction of N × S. N additions promoted fungal growth, while S stimulated growth of Gram-positive bacteria, fungi, and actinobacteria. Increased decomposition was related to higher litter-derived DOC and fungi/bacteria ratio. Inversely, N and/or S amendments inhibited decomposition (N > NS > S) from day 57 afterwards, possibly due to C limitation and decreased abundances of Gram-negative bacteria and actinobacteria. These results suggested that N deposition interacted with S to affect litter decomposition, and this effect depended on N and S deposition levels and litter decomposition stage.


Litter decomposition Phospholipid fatty acids Stable carbon isotope tracing Nitrogen deposition Sulfur deposition Subtropical forest soil 



We would like to thank Dr. Yong Ran (Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences) for assistance in PLFAs analyses. We also greatly appreciate Dr. Courtney A. Creamer (CSIRO Agriculture Flagship, Australia) and Dr. Frank Hagedorn (Swiss Federal Institute for Forest Snow and Landscape Research, Switzerland) for their helpful discussions on carbon isotope composition determination. We thank Editor-in-Chief Professor Paolo Nannipieri and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions that improve the manuscript greatly. This work was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (2014CB954002), Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDB15020100) and the Natural Science Foundation of China (41271243).

Supplementary material

374_2016_1115_MOESM1_ESM.doc (3.4 mb)
ESM 1 (DOC 3436 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yehong Xu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jianling Fan
    • 1
  • Weixin Ding
    • 1
    Email author
  • Roland Bol
    • 3
  • Zengming Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jiafa Luo
    • 4
  • Nanthi Bolan
    • 5
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable Agriculture, Institute of Soil ScienceChinese Academy of SciencesNanjingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Institute of Bio- and Geosciences, IBG-3: Agrosphere, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbHJülichGermany
  4. 4.Land and Environment, AgResearchHamiltonNew Zealand
  5. 5.Global Centre for Environmental RemediationUniversity of NewcastleNewcastleAustralia

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