Global-scale similarities in nitrogen release patterns during long-term decomposition

Publication Type:

Journal Article


SCIENCE, AMER ASSOC ADVANCEMENT SCIENCE, Volume 315, Number 5810, 1200 NEW YORK AVE, NW, WASHINGTON, DC 20005 USA, p.361-364 (2007)


Litter decomposition provides the primary source of mineral nitrogen (N) for biological activity in most terrestrial ecosystems. A 10-year decomposition experiment in 21 sites from seven biomes found that net N release from leaf litter is dominantly driven by the initial tissue N concentration and mass remaining regardless of climate, edaphic conditions, or biota. Arid grasslands exposed to high ultraviolet radiation were an exception, where net N release was insensitive to initial N. Roots released N linearly with decomposition and exhibited little net N immobilization. We suggest that fundamental constraints on decomposer physiologies lead to predictable global-scale patterns in net N release during decomposition.