• Climate change;
  • coniferous forests;
  • broadleaf forests;
  • Eurasia;
  • litterfall;
  • phenology;
  • precipitation;
  • temperature;
  • vegetation-climate relationships


Aim  The objectives of this study were to determine the relationships between climatic factors and litterfall in coniferous and broadleaf forests in Eurasia and to explore the difference in litterfall between coniferous and broadleaf forests as related to climate at a continental scale.

Location  We have used data from across Eurasia.

Methods  The relationships between litterfall and climatic factors were examined using linear regression analysis of a compilation of published data from coniferous and broadleaf forests in Eurasia.

Results  The relationships between litterfall and climatic factors show that in the temperate, subtropical, and tropical areas, broadleaf forests had higher litterfall than coniferous ones, whilst the opposite was found for boreal forests. Combining all climatic zones, a multiple regression analysis using annual mean temperature (T) and annual precipitation (P) as independent variables gave an adjusted R2 (inline image) of 0.272 for total litterfall in coniferous forests (n = 199, P < 0.001), 0.498 for broadleaf litterfall (n = 240, P < 0.001), and 0.535 for combined coniferous and broadleaf litterfall (n = 439, P < 0.001). The linear models for broadleaf stands have significantly higher coefficients for T and P than those for coniferous ones but the intercepts were similar. Thus, litterfall in broadleaf forests increased faster with T and P than that in coniferous forests. Further, a transformation of temperature and precipitation to relative units showed that a relative-unit change in T had a larger impact than P on total litterfall in broadleaf forests. The results indicate that at a continental scale, climatic controls over litterfall differ between coniferous and broadleaf forests.

Conclusions  A relative unit change in annual mean temperature has a greater effect on litterfall compared to the same change in annual precipitation across the Eurasian forests. Further, the higher response to T for broadleaf forests indicates a difference in climate control between coniferous and broadleaf forests at a continental scale, and consequently different litterfall responses to climate change.