The magnitude, temporal, and spatial patterns of soil-atmospheric greenhouse gas (hereafter referred to as GHG) exchanges in forests near the Tropic of Cancer are still highly uncertain. To contribute towards an improvement of actual estimates, soil-atmospheric CO2, CH4, and N2O fluxes were measured in three successional subtropical forests at the Dinghushan Nature Reserve (hereafter referred to as DNR) in southern China. Soils in DNR forests behaved as N2O sources and CH4 sinks. Annual mean CO2, N2O, and CH4 fluxes (mean ?? SD) were 7.7 ?? 4.6MgCO2-Cha-1 yr-1, 3.2 ?? 1.2 kg N2ONha-1 yr-1, and 3.4 ?? 0.9 kgCH4-Cha-1 yr-1, respectively. The climate was warm and wet from April through September 2003 (the hot-humid season) and became cool and dry from October 2003 through March 2004 (the cool-dry season). The seasonality of soil CO2 emission coincided with the seasonal climate pattern, with high CO2 emission rates in the hot-humid season and low rates in the cool-dry season. In contrast, seasonal patterns of CH4 and N2O fluxes were not clear, although higher CH4 uptake rates were often observed in the cool-dry season and higher N2O emission rates were often observed in the hot-humid season. GHG fluxes measured at these three sites showed a clear increasing trend with the progressive succession. If this trend is representative at the regional scale, CO2 and N2O emissions and CH4 uptake in southern China may increase in the future in light of the projected change in forest age structure. Removal of surface litter reduced soil CO2 effluxes by 17-44% in the three forests but had no significant effect on CH4 absorption and N2O emission rates. This suggests that microbial CH4 uptake and N2O production was mainly related to the mineral soil rather than in the surface litter layer. ?? 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.