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Decoupling of priming and microbial N mining during a short-term soil incubation
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry. University of Gothenburg, Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9611-0815
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Number of Authors: 52019 (English)In: Soil Biology and Biochemistry, ISSN 0038-0717, E-ISSN 1879-3428, Vol. 129, p. 71-79Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) availability depend on the breakdown of soil polymers such as lignin, chitin, and protein that represent the major fraction of soil C and N but are too large for immediate uptake by plants and microorganisms. Microorganisms may adjust the production of enzymes targeting different polymers to optimize the balance between C and N availability and demand, and for instance increase the depolymerization of N-rich compounds when C availability is high and N availability low (microbial N mining). Such a mechanism could mitigate plant N limitation but also lie behind a stimulation of soil respiration frequently observed in the vicinity of plant roots (priming effect). We here compared the effect of increased C and N availability on the depolymerization of native bulk soil organic matter (SOM), and of C-13-enriched lignin, chitin, and protein added to the same soil in two complementary ten day microcosm incubation experiments. A significant reduction of chitin depolymerization (described by the recovery of chitin-derived C in the sum of dissolved organic, microbial and respired C) upon N addition indicated that chitin was degraded to serve as a microbial N source under low-N conditions and replaced in the presence of an immediately available alternative. Protein and lignin depolymerization in contrast were not affected by N addition. Carbon addition enhanced microbial N demand and SOM decomposition rates, but significantly reduced lignin, chitin, and protein depolymerization. Our findings contrast the hypothesis of increased microbial N mining as a key driver behind the priming effect and rather suggest that C addition promoted the mobilization of other soil C pools that replaced lignin, chitin, and protein as microbial C sources, for instance by releasing soil compounds from mineral bonds. We conclude that SOM decomposition is interactively controlled by multiple mechanisms including the balance between C vs N availability. Disentangling these controls will be crucial for understanding C and N cycling on an ecosystem scale.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. Vol. 129, p. 71-79
Keywords [en]
Decomposition, Lignin, Chitin, Protein, Phospholipid fatty acids, Extracellular enzymes
National Category
Agricultural Science, Forestry and Fisheries
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-166749DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2018.11.014ISI: 000457661000008OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-166749DiVA, id: diva2:1296701
Available from: 2019-03-17 Created: 2019-03-17 Last updated: 2019-03-17Bibliographically approved

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