Modulation of litter decomposition by the soil microbial food web under influence of land use change

Amber Heijboer*, Peter C. de Ruiter, Paul L.E. Bodelier, George A. Kowalchuk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Soil microbial communities modulate soil organic matter (SOM) dynamics by catalyzing litter decomposition. However, our understanding of how litter-derived carbon (C) flows through the microbial portion of the soil food web is far from comprehensive. This information is necessary to facilitate reliable predictions of soil C cycling and sequestration in response to a changing environment such as land use change in the form of agricultural abandonment. To examine the flow of litter-derived C through the soil microbial food web and it’s response to land use change, we carried out an incubation experiment with soils from six fields; three recently abandoned and three long term abandoned fields. In these soils, the fate of 13C-labeled plant litter was followed by analyzing phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) over a period of 56 days. The litter-amended soils were sampled over time to measure 13CO2 and mineral N dynamics. Microbial 13C-incorporation patterns revealed a clear succession of microbial groups during litter decomposition. Fungi were first to incorporate 13C-label, followed by G− bacteria, G+ bacteria, actinomycetes and micro-fauna. The order in which various microbial groups responded to litter decomposition was similar across all the fields examined, with no clear distinction between recent and long-term abandoned soils. Although the microbial biomass was initially higher in long-term abandoned soils, the net amount of 13C-labeled litter that was incorporated by the soil microbial community was ultimately comparable between recent and long-term abandoned fields. In relative terms, this means there was a higher efficiency of litter-derived 13C-incorporation in recent abandoned soil microbial communities compared to long-term abandoned soils, most likely due to a net shift from SOM-derived C toward root-derived C input in the soil microbial food web following land-abandonment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2860
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Volume9
Issue numberNOV
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2018

Keywords

  • Agricultural abandonment
  • Carbon cycle
  • Decomposition
  • PLFA-SIP
  • Soil food web
  • Soil microbial community

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