Contrasting effects of the aboveground litter of native Phragmites australis and invasive Spartina alterniflora on nitrification and denitrification.
Aboveground litter inputs from plants are among the most important pathways for carbon and nutrient fluxes to the soil. Previous studies on the effects of aboveground litter from invasive plants on ecosystem processes have primarily focused on biogeochemical cycling processes such as C and N mineralization, whereas the effects of aboveground litter from invasive plants on nitrogen removal processes are not well understood. In this study, the effects of the aboveground litter of native Phragmites australis and exotic Spartina alterniflora on soil nitrification and denitrification were compared. Results showed that the removal of the aboveground litter of both species had no effect on nitrification or denitrification in the early growth phase. However, after aboveground litter removal in the late growth phase, nitrification and denitrification in the P. australis stands decreased by 41.18% and 25.11%, respectively, whereas no such changes were observed in the S. alterniflora stands. These results indicate that the impacts of aboveground litter on nitrification and denitrification are species-specific. The aboveground litter from indigenous P. australis affected the SOC content and then indirectly affected nitrification or denitrification, and these effects were clearer in the late growth phase. Although other studies have reported that the invasive S. alterniflora have strong impacts on nitrogen removal processes, our study showed that the aboveground litter from S. alterniflora did not alter nitrification or denitrification, which indicates that other pathways may play important roles in nitrogen removal processes than its aboveground litter does.