Research ArticleENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES

Temperature sensitivity of SOM decomposition governed by aggregate protection and microbial communities

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Science Advances  10 Jul 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 7, eaau1218
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau1218

Abstract

Temperature sensitivity (Q10) of soil organic matter (SOM) decomposition is a crucial parameter for predicting the fate of soil carbon (C) under global warming. However, our understanding of its regulatory mechanisms remains inadequate, which constrains its accurate parameterization in Earth system models and induces large uncertainties in predicting terrestrial C-climate feedback. Here, we conducted a long-term laboratory incubation combined with a two-pool model and manipulative experiments to examine potential mechanisms underlying the depth-associated Q10 variations in active and slow soil C pools. We found that lower microbial abundance and stronger aggregate protection were coexisting mechanisms underlying the lower Q10 in the subsoil. Of them, microbial communities were the main determinant of Q10 in the active pool, whereas aggregate protection exerted more important control in the slow pool. These results highlight the crucial role of soil C stabilization mechanisms in regulating temperature response of SOM decomposition, potentially attenuating the terrestrial C-climate feedback.

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