Conversion of organic carbon from decayed native and invasive plant litter in Jiuduansha wetland and its implications for SOC formation and sequestration

  • Jianfang Yan
  • Lei WangEmail author
  • Yiu Fai TsangEmail author
  • Liwei Qian
  • Xiaohua Fu
  • Ying Sun
  • Pengfei Wu
Soils, Sec 1 • Soil Organic Matter Dynamics and Nutrient Cycling • Research Article



It is still controversial which type of plant litter is conducive to soil organic carbon (SOC) formation. Here we are to explore the conversion of organic carbon (OC) from decayed plant litter in soil and its influence on final SOC sequestration.

Materials and methods

In situ investigation combined with laboratory soil incubation experiments were conducted in mixing zones dominated by halophytes of Phragmites communis and Spartina alterniflora in the Jiuduansha wetland of the Yangtze River estuary to investigate differences in conversion patterns of OC from two decayed plant litters of different characteristics using traditional physicochemical indicators and stable isotope tracing. Additionally, the mechanism of biotransformation was investigated through analysis of soil microbial community structure.

Results and discussion

Due to the higher content of lignin and cellulose in P. communis litter, the associated soil microbial community was more conducive to the formation of soil humus (HS). By contrast, more easily decomposable S. alterniflora litter induced its related soil microbial community more amenable to mineralization. Consequently, OC from decayed S. alterniflora litter remained in soil for less time than that from decayed P. communis, and the lost OC was more readily converted into CO2. OC from decayed P. communis was degraded very slowly during the early stage of conversion (November), and its longer duration in soil was favorable for HS formation.


Analysis of the conversion of intermediates derived from different types of decayed plants can provide insight into plant litter input and SOC formation, and indicate the whereabouts of lost OC. From the perspective of plant biomass and conversion of plant litter-derived OC, P. communis is more conducive to soil carbon sequestration than S. alterniflora.


Biotransformation Phragmites communis Plant litter Soil microbial community Soil organic carbon Spartina alterniflora 



We thanked the International Science Editing for editing the paper.

Funding information

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 21876127); National Key Research and Development Project of China (no. 2017YFC0506004); Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong SAR, China (nos. 28300015 and 18202116); the Internal Research Grant (RG 34/2017-2018R and RG 50/2017-2018R) of The Education University of Hong Kong; Science and Technology Developmental Fund Project of Pudong District (no. PKJ2015-C11); and Research Projects of City Environmental Protection Bureau of Pudong District (no. 2016012).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11368_2019_2464_MOESM1_ESM.docx (220 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 219 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Yangtze River Water Environment, Ministry of Education, College of Environmental Science and EngineeringTongji UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Department of Science and Environmental StudiesThe Education University of Hong KongHong KongChina
  3. 3.Research Institute for Shanghai Pollution Control and Ecological SecurityShanghaiChina
  4. 4.Shanghai Jiuduansha Wetland Nature Reserve AdministrationShanghaiChina

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