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Researchers Reveal Regulatory Mechanisms of the Temperature Sensitivity of Soil Organic Matter Decomposition in Alpine Grasslands
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Temperature sensitivity of soil organic matter decomposition, commonly referred to as Q10, is a key parameter in terrestrial carbon cycle. It quantifies the increase in decomposition rate with a 10 oC rise in temperature and could determine the sign and magnitude of terrestrial carbon-climate feedback.

The regulatory mechanisms of the temperature sensitivity of soil organic matter decomposition are receiving great interests among the global change research community in the recent 20 years. However, comprehensive analyses involving the roles of substrate, environment, and microbial properties in regulating Q10 remain limited.

Recently, a research team led by Prof. YANG Yuanhe from the Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, elucidated the mechanisms underlying the vertical variations of Q10. Based on soil samples derived from the natural gradient of soil profile in the Tibetan alpine grasslands, the team conducted long-term incubation, soil organic matter decomposition model and manipulative experiments.

The team found that lower microbial abundance and stronger aggregate protection were coexisting mechanisms underlying the lower Q10 in the subsoil. Substrate quality and mineral protection were less responsible for the Q10 variations.

Further analysis revealed that the regulatory mechanisms differed between various carbon components. Microbial communities were the main determinant of depth-associated variations in Q10 in the active carbon pool, whereas aggregate protection exerted more important control in the slow carbon pool.

These results revealed the crucial role of soil carbon stabilization mechanisms in regulating temperature response of soil organic matter decomposition, and provided important enlightenment for accurately understanding the feedback between terrestrial carbon cycle and climate warming.

The paper was recently published online entitled “Temperature sensitivity of SOM decomposition governed by aggregate protection and microbial communities” in Science Advances.

This study was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, National Key R&D Program of China, National Natural Science Foundation of China, Key Research Program of Frontier Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Chinese Academy of Sciences–Peking University Pioneer Cooperation Team.

A schematic illustrating the role of microbial abundance and aggregate protection in regulating the temperature sensitivity of soil organic matter decomposition.

Articlelink: https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/7/eaau1218 

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