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Trends Ecol Evol. 2015 Jun;30(6):357-63. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2015.03.015. Epub 2015 Apr 19.

Plant species effects on nutrient cycling: revisiting litter feedbacks.

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Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA. Electronic address:


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.


decomposition; feedback; litter; nutrient cycling; species effects

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