The response of organic matter mineralisation to nutrient and substrate additions in sub-arctic soils

Iain P. Hartley*, David W. Hopkins, Martin Sommerkorn, Philip A. Wookey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Global warming in the Arctic may alter decomposition rates in Arctic soils and therefore nutrient availability. In addition, changes in the length of the growing season may increase plant productivity and the rate of labile C input below ground. We carried out an experiment in which inorganic nutrients (NH4NO3 and NaPO4) and organic substrates (glucose and glycine) were added to soils sampled from across the mountain birch forest-tundra heath ecotone in northern Sweden (organic and mineral soils from the forest, and organic soil only from the heath). Carbon dioxide production was then monitored continuously over the following 19 days. Neither inorganic N nor P additions substantially affected soil respiration rates when added separately. However, combined N and P additions stimulated microbial activity, with the response being greatest in the birch forest mineral soil (57% increase in CO2 production compared with 26% in the heath soil and 8% in the birch forest organic soil). Therefore, mineralisation rates in these soils may be stimulated if the overall nutrient availability to microbes increases in response to global change, but N deposition alone is unlikely to enhance decomposition. Adding either, or both, glucose and glycine increased microbial respiration. Isotopic separation indicated that the mineralisation of native soil organic matter (SOM) was stimulated by glucose addition in the heath soil and the forest mineral soil, but not in the forest organic soil. These positive 'priming' effects were lost following N addition in forest mineral soil, and following both N and P additions in the heath soil. In order to meet enhanced microbial nutrient demand, increased inputs of labile C from plants could stimulate the mineralisation of SOM, with the soil C stocks in the tundra-heath potentially most vulnerable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-100
Number of pages9
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Volume42
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPrint publication - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was carried out within the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded Arctic Biosphere Atmosphere Coupling at Multiple Scales (ABACUS) project (a contribution to International Polar Year 2007–2008). We thank Lorna English for assisting with the microbial biomass and elemental analyses, and Mark Garnett for his helpful comments on the manuscript. The manuscript has been modified based on the constructive comments of two anonymous reviewers.

Copyright:
Copyright 2009 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Arctic
  • Climate change
  • Glucose
  • Glycine
  • Mountain birch
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Priming
  • Soil respiration
  • Tundra-heath

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