Fire is a major driver of global vegetation patterns. It strongly reduces litter and thus alters physical and chemical properties of the environment. Studies investigating the interplay of fire and litter are scarce, and wetland ecosystems are strongly under-represented in research focusing on litter dynamics. We present data on short-term effects of fires in floodplain wetlands along the Amur River in the Russian Far East, an area with a high fire recurrence rate. We analysed vegetation and plant growth patterns as well as soil temperature and nutrient concentrations on recently burnt and unburnt control plots. Directly after fire, litter was reduced by more than 50% on burnt plots. This effect was no longer visible 15 months after fire, probably due to the high productivity of the floodplain ecosystem. Litter was found to act as a key determinant in the net of direct and indirect fire effects, by influencing early plant growth patterns of herbs and grasses. Furthermore, litter removal through fire significantly increased plant species diversity and soil temperature. Contrary, N and P concentrations in living plant biomass of grasses and herbs decreased with decreasing litter cover. Combustion during burning seems to be responsible for the negative direct fire impacts on nutrient concentrations, which were found for N and Mg. Litter removal through fire can strongly affect diversity patterns, dominance structures, and nutrient cycling in wetlands. With increasing fire frequency in the course of global change, significant structural and compositional changes in herbaceous wetland vegetation must be anticipated and the studied ecosystem may shift to reinforced N-limitation.