Relationship between home-field advantage of litter decomposition and priming of soil organic matter

D.P. di Lonardo, M. Manrubia, W. de Boer, H. Zweers, G.F. Veen*, A. van der Wal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Home field advantage (HFA; acceleration of plant litter decomposition in soils that receive their indigenous litter) and priming effects (PE; short-term changes in the turnover of soil organic matter caused by the addition of fresh organic carbon) are two aspects of decomposition processes that are driven by the composition and functioning of soil decomposer communities. Physicochemical similarity between added organic compounds and soil organic matter fractions has been indicated as an important steering factor of PE. It is unknown whether PE, like litter decomposition, experience HFA, i.e., whether PE are higher than expected in soils receiving their own litter due to specialization of the decomposer community. Here we studied both HFA and PE by measuring litter- and SOM-derived carbon (C) fluxes after the addition of fresh plant litter. We reciprocally incubated three 13C labelled litter types (maize, bent and beech) in soils from ecosystems where these litters are abundantly produced (e.g., arable sites, grasslands and forests), with and without the addition of mineral nitrogen (N). Generally, respiration of both litter-derived and SOM-derived C were lowest when beech litter was added, and were lower in forest soils than in arable or grassland soils. N addition generally slightly increased the respiration of litter-derived C, but had no effect on SOM-derived C. All litter types induced a positive PE in all soils. HFA effects were not significantly different from zero, but were significantly higher in grasslands than in maize fields amended with nitrogen. We found a positive relationship between litter and priming HFA, indicating that the rates of both litter decomposition and PE may be affected in the same manner by home combinations of plant and litter versus away combinations. This positive relationship disappeared when N was added. Our results provide a first indication that the extent to which indigenous soil microbes are specialized to breakdown home litter, not only accelerates or decelerates the decomposition of litter, but affects the breakdown of SOM in the same way. This could imply that a specialized litter decomposer community driving HFA can further accelerate soil C mineralization via enhanced induction of PE. Therefore, the impact of specialized decomposer communities on the dynamics of soil C pools may be bigger than expected from HFA of litter decomposition alone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-56
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • C-plant litter
  • Carbon cycling
  • Home field advantage
  • Nitrogen
  • Priming effect
  • Soil organic matter

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