Understory vegetation removal reduces the incidence of non-additive mass loss during leaf litter decomposition in a subtropical Pinus massoniana plantation

  • Wei He
  • Xin Xu
  • Chenchen Zhang
  • Zhiyuan Ma
  • Jiaoyang Xu
  • Mingjun Ten
  • Zhaogui Yan
  • Ben Wang
  • Pengcheng WangEmail author
Regular Article



Improvement cutting or harvesting can change the coverage of understory vegetation, which can significantly influence the litter decomposition process in plantations. However, difference in potential non-additive mass loss in response to understory vegetation changes is poorly studied.


A field litterbag experiment involving various litter types and treatments with no understory vegetation removal, shrub removal, herb removal and whole-understory vegetation removal was conducted to examine non-additive mass loss.


During approximately 2 years of decomposition, the decomposition rate of shrub and herb components was accelerated in the mixed litter with full understory vegetation. There was significant non-additive mass loss during decomposition in the plots with trees, shrubs and herbs, while the incidence of non-additive mass loss was lower in the plots with understory vegetation removal. Statistical analysis revealed a significant difference between the expected mass loss calculated with the data from the corresponding decomposition plots and that calculated with the data from the plots with whole-understory vegetation removal.


Our results show that understory vegetation removal can inhibit litter decomposition in Masson pine plantation ecosystems in subtropical China. We highlight that non-additive litter decomposition should be assessed on the basis of litter species composition and decomposition microenvironments in situ.


k value Leaf litter decomposition Litter species composition Microbial biomass carbon Non-additive effect 



We are grateful to Mr. Hongdong Pang and Pro. Hongxia Cui of Hubei’s Academy of Forestry and Linshan Sun of the Hubei Taizishan Forest Farm Administration Bureau for assistance with the understory vegetation survey. This work was supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (No. 2016YFD0600201), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 31800518, 31870611 and 31400531), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (Nos. 2662018PY084 and 2662018QD059), Hubei Province Key Technology Innovation Project (2016ABA111) and the Hubei Provincial Natural Science Foundation of China (2018CFB374).

Supplementary material

11104_2019_4378_MOESM1_ESM.docx (255 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 254 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wei He
    • 1
  • Xin Xu
    • 1
  • Chenchen Zhang
    • 1
  • Zhiyuan Ma
    • 1
  • Jiaoyang Xu
    • 1
  • Mingjun Ten
    • 1
  • Zhaogui Yan
    • 1
  • Ben Wang
    • 1
  • Pengcheng Wang
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.College of Horticulture and Forestry Sciences/Hubei Engineering Technology Research Center for Forestry InformationHuazhong Agricultural UniversityWuhanChina

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