Plant species effects on nutrient cycling: revisiting litter feedbacks

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380 Scopus citations


In a review published over two decades ago I asserted that, along soil fertility gradients, plant traits change in ways that reinforce patterns of soil fertility and net primary productivity (NPP). I reevaluate this assertion in light of recent research, focusing on feedbacks to NPP operating through litter decomposition. I conclude that mechanisms emerging since my previous review might weaken these positive feedbacks, such as negative effects of nitrogen on decomposition, while others might strengthen them, such as slower decomposition of roots compared to leaf litter. I further conclude that predictive understanding of plant species effects on nutrient cycling will require developing new frameworks that are broadened beyond litter decomposition to consider the full litter-soil organic matter (SOM) continuum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-363
Number of pages7
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Decomposition
  • Feedback
  • Litter
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Species effects


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