Microbial inputs at the litter layer translate climate into altered organic matter properties

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Kohl , L , Myers-Pigg , A , Edwards , K A , Billings , S A , Warren , J , Podrebarac , F & Ziegler , S E 2021 , ' Microbial inputs at the litter layer translate climate into altered organic matter properties ' , Global Change Biology , vol. 27 , no. 2 , pp. 435-453 . https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15420

Title: Microbial inputs at the litter layer translate climate into altered organic matter properties
Author: Kohl, Lukas; Myers-Pigg, Allison; Edwards, Kate A.; Billings, Sharon A.; Warren, Jamie; Podrebarac, Frances; Ziegler, Susan E.
Contributor organization: Department of Agricultural Sciences
Ecosystem processes (INAR Forest Sciences)
Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS)
Date: 2021-01
Language: eng
Number of pages: 19
Belongs to series: Global Change Biology
ISSN: 1365-2486
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15420
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/335756
Abstract: Plant litter chemistry is altered during decomposition but it remains unknown if these alterations, and thus the composition of residual litter, will change in response to climate. Selective microbial mineralization of litter components and the accumulation of microbial necromass can drive litter compositional change, but the extent to which these mechanisms respond to climate remains poorly understood. We addressed this knowledge gap by studying needle litter decomposition along a boreal forest climate transect. Specifically, we investigated how the composition and/or metabolism of the decomposer community varies with climate, and if that variation is associated with distinct modifications of litter chemistry during decomposition. We analyzed the composition of microbial phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) in the litter layer and measured natural abundance δ13C-PLFA values as an integrated measure of microbial metabolisms. Changes in litter chemistry and δ13C values were measured in litterbag experiments conducted at each transect site. A warmer climate was associated with higher litter nitrogen concentrations as well as altered microbial community structure (lower fungi:bacteria ratios) and microbial metabolism (higher δ13C-PLFA). Litter in warmer transect regions accumulated less aliphatic-C (lipids, waxes) and retained more O-alkyl-C (carbohydrates), consistent with enhanced 13C-enrichment in residual litter, than in colder regions. These results suggest that chemical changes during litter decomposition will change with climate, driven primarily by indirect climate effects (e.g. greater nitrogen availability and decreased fungi:bacteria ratios) rather than direct temperature effects. A positive correlation between microbial biomass δ13C values and 13C-enrichment during decomposition suggests that change in litter chemistry is driven more by distinct microbial necromass inputs than differences in the selective removal of litter components. Our study highlights the role that microbial inputs during early litter decomposition can play in shaping surface litter contribution to soil organic matter as it responds to climate warming effects such as greater nitrogen availability.
Subject: 1182 Biochemistry, cell and molecular biology
boreal forest
climate transect
MAS C-13&#8208
litter decomposition
C-13 NMR
Peer reviewed: Yes
Rights: cc_by_nc
Usage restriction: openAccess
Self-archived version: acceptedVersion

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