Abstract：Relative to areas under canopy, the soils in forest gaps receive more irradiance and rainfall (snowfall); this change in microclimate induced by forest gaps may influence the release of carbon (C) and nutrients during litter decomposition. However, great uncertainty remains about the effects of forest gaps on litter decomposition. In this study, we incubated foliar litters from six tree and shrub species in forest gaps and canopy plots and measured the release of C, nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in different snow cover periods in an alpine forest from 2012 to 2016. We found that N was retained by 24–46% but that P was immediately released during an early stage of decomposition. However, forest gaps decreased litter N retention, resulting in more N and P being released from decomposing litters for certain species (i.e., larch, birch and willow litters). Moreover, the release of C and nutrients during litter decomposition stimulated by forest gaps was primarily driven by warmer soil temperature in this high-altitude forest. We conclude that gap formation during forest regeneration may accelerate C turnover and nutrient cycling and that this stimulation might be regulated by the litter species in this seasonally snow-covered forest.
Keywords： Alpine forest Forest gap Litter decomposition Nitrogen retention Phosphorus release