Experimental warming and clipping altered litter carbon and nitrogen dynamics in a tallgrass prairie

Xiaoli Cheng, Yiqi Luo, Bo Su, Xuhui Zhou, Shuli Niu, Rebecca Sherry, Ensheng Weng, Quanfa Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Litter carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) dynamics are important processes in regulating C and N cycling in ecosystems. However, it is not well understood how global climate change and land use practice interactively affect litter C and N dynamics in ecosystems. We conducted a field experiment in a tallgrass prairie in Oklahoma, USA, to study effects of climate warming and clipping (as mimic of agricultural hay harvest) on litter C and N dynamics in association with litter production and decomposition of dominant species C4 grass and C3 forb. Warming did not significantly affect specific decomposition and N immobilization/mineralization rates of either species but increased C4 and decreased C3 litter production. Increased C4 litter production, together with its intrinsic low decomposition, resulted in 16-47% increase in litter mass. Warming decreased N concentrations, litter N production, litter N pool and litter N output (i.e., litter N loss). Clipping significantly increased specific decomposition rates of C4 litter but decreased litter production, litter mass and litter N contents. Our results suggest that indirect effects of climate change via shifts in plant species composition and decreases in litter quality are much more important than its direct effects on litter decomposition and subsequent C and N turnovers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-213
Number of pages8
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Aug 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate change
  • Initial litter quality
  • Land use practice
  • Litter C and N dynamics
  • Litter decomposition
  • Soil microclimate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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