Both litter composition and site environment are important factors influencing litter decomposition, but their relative roles in driving spatial variation in litter decomposition among wetlands remain unclear. The responses of mass loss and nutrient dynamics to site environment and litter source were investigated in Carex brevicuspis leaves from the Dongting Lake wetlands, China, using reciprocal transplants of litterbags. Litters originating from lower elevation (24–25 m; flooded for 180–200 days every year) and higher elevation (27–28 m; flooded for 60–90 days every year) sites were incubated simultaneously at lower and higher sites at three locations for 1 year. The remaining litter mass, N, P, and lignin contents were analyzed during decomposition. Initial N and P contents were richer in litters from lower sites than those from higher ones. The decomposition rate was higher for the litters originating from lower sites (0.0030 day?1) than those from higher ones (0.0025 day?1) and higher at lower sites (0.0031 day?1) than at higher sites (0.0024 day?1). Litters from lower sites displayed greater N and P mineralization than those from higher sites, whereas only P dynamics were affected by site elevation. The variation in litter decomposition rate among the different litter source groups was twice that among the different site elevation groups. These data indicate that, in wetlands ecosystems, litter composition plays a more important role in the speed of litter decomposition than site environment (here represented by site elevation).
litter decomposition Carex brevicuspis Dongting Lake wetlands elevation reciprocal