Temperature Sensitivity of Topsoil Organic Matter Decomposition Does Not Depend on Vegetation Types in Mountains

Alexandra Komarova, Kristina Ivashchenko*, Sofia Sushko, Anna Zhuravleva, Vyacheslav Vasenev, Sergey Blagodatsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Rising air temperatures caused by global warming affects microbial decomposition rate of soil organic matter (SOM). The temperature sensitivity of SOM decomposition (Q10) may depend on SOM quality determined by vegetation type. In this study, we selected a long transect (3.6 km) across the five ecosystems and short transects (0.1 km) from grazed and ungrazed meadows to forests in the Northwest Caucasus to consider different patterns in Q10 changes at shift of the vegetation belts. It is hypothesized that Q10 will increase along altitudinal gradient in line with recalcitrance of SOM according to kinetics-based theory. The indicators of SOM quality (BR:C, respiration per unit of soil C; MBC:C, ratio of microbial biomass carbon to soil carbon; soil C:N ratio) were used for checking the hypothesis. It was shown that Q10 did not differ across vegetation types within long and short transects, regardless differences in projective cover (14–99%) and vegetation species richness (6–12 units per plot). However, Q10 value differed between the long and short transects by almost two times (on average 2.4 vs. 1.4). Such a difference was explained by environmental characteristics linked with terrain position (slope steepness, microclimate, and land forms). The Q10 changes across studied slopes were driven by BR:C for meadows (R2 = 0.64; negative relationship) and pH value for forests (R2 = 0.80; positive relationship). Thus, proxy of SOM quality explained Q10 variability only across mountain meadows, whereas for forests, soil acidity was the main driver of microbial activity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2765
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2022


  • forest and meadow ecosystems
  • mountainous soils
  • Q index
  • quality of soil organic matter
  • ungrazed and grazed land-use


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