Abstract: Forest litter is the main contributor to soil fertility and the main carrier of circulating material and energy in forest ecosystems. Abies faxoniana (Minjiang fir) is one of the dominant species in alpine forest ecosystems. Its litter input plays important roles in soil organic matter formation and biogeochemical cycles in these ecosystems, but the annual litterfall pattern and its components remain largely unknown. To determine the litter input and nutrient return of A. faxoniana, we measured the litterfall and element (carbon (C), nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), sodium (Na), magnesium (Mg), aluminium (Al), iron (Fe), and manganese (Mn)) contents of different litter components (branches, leaves and epiphytes) from 2016 to 2020. The results showed that the annual litterfall in the A. faxoniana forest ranged from 2055.96 to 5384.15 kg.ha-1a-1, and the average mass proportions of branches, leaves and epiphytes were 30.12%, 62.18% and 7.7%, respectively. The litterfall yield varied significantly with time and component; not only was the yield of litter in the nongrowing season higher than that in the growing season, but it also exhibited dramatic interannual variations. We also found that time had significant effects on the contents of all elements except for Ca in the litter. The return and input amounts of each element followed the same dynamics, which closely resembled a bimodal pattern. Moreover, there was significant interannual variability in the returned amounts of each element. The ranges of annual returns of C, N and P were 744.80~2275.12, 19.80~59.00 and 1.03~2.81 kg.ha-1a-1, respectively. The ranges of annual returns of K, Ca, Na, Mg, Al, Fe and Mn were 0.91~2.00, 7.04~18.88, 0.13~0.58, 0.33~1.20, 0.55~2.29, 0.41~1.37 and 0.16~0.48 kg.ha-1a-1, respectively, reflecting a seasonal double-peak pattern. These results have important implications for understanding the biogeochemical cycles and material migration processes in alpine forest ecosystems.
Keywords: litter production; elements; nutrient return; alpine forest; Abies faxoniana