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Soil carbon and microbes in the warming tropics

Nottingham, Andrew T. ; Gloor, Emanuel ; Bååth, Erland LU and Meir, Patrick (2022) In Functional Ecology 36(6). p.1338-1354
Abstract

Climate warming could destabilise the Earth's largest terrestrial store of reactive carbon (C), by accelerating the decomposition of soil organic matter. A third of that C store resides in the tropics. The potential for tropical soils to sequester C, or to act as an additional source of CO2, will depend on the balance of C inputs and outputs, mediated by the response of soil microbial communities and their activity to perturbation. We review the impact of warming on microbial communities and C storage in humid tropical forest soils over multiple time-scales. Recent in situ experiments indicate high sensitivity of tropical forest soil C mineralisation to warming in the short term. However, whether this will translate into... (More)

Climate warming could destabilise the Earth's largest terrestrial store of reactive carbon (C), by accelerating the decomposition of soil organic matter. A third of that C store resides in the tropics. The potential for tropical soils to sequester C, or to act as an additional source of CO2, will depend on the balance of C inputs and outputs, mediated by the response of soil microbial communities and their activity to perturbation. We review the impact of warming on microbial communities and C storage in humid tropical forest soils over multiple time-scales. Recent in situ experiments indicate high sensitivity of tropical forest soil C mineralisation to warming in the short term. However, whether this will translate into long-term soil C decline remains unclear. At decadal time-scales, high sensitivity of soil C mineralisation to warming is consistent with the correlation between the inter-annual variation in the tropical land surface temperature and atmospheric CO2 growth rate, and with simulations using the Carnegie-Ames-Stanford Approach biosphere model. This observed sensitivity may further contribute to climatic change over millennial time-scales, suggested by radiocarbon dating of organic matter in river basins showing a twofold acceleration in tropical soil C release during the late-glacial warming period. However, counter to this evidence, long-term stability of tropical soil C is suggested by observed steady-state soil C turnover across temperature gradients with elevation, and by the presence of C in tropical soils that pre-dates the Holocene Thermal Maximum and late-glacial warming periods. To help reconcile these recent experimental findings and long-term observations, we propose mechanisms to explain tropical soil C and microbial responses to warming across multiple time-scales. Combined in situ experimental and monitoring approaches—large-scale and cross-site—are urgently needed to resolve the interplay of these mechanisms across spatial and temporal scales, to shape a better understanding of the relationship between soil microbes and C storage in tropical soils. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.

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author
; ; and
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
CASA model, climate warming, Ratkowsky model, soil microbial community, soil organic matter, tropical forest
in
Functional Ecology
volume
36
issue
6
pages
17 pages
publisher
Wiley-Blackwell
external identifiers
  • scopus:85131284374
ISSN
0269-8463
DOI
10.1111/1365-2435.14050
language
English
LU publication?
yes
additional info
Funding Information: The authors acknowledge and thank Pablo Garcia Palacios and Ji Chen for their invitation to the special issue about and for their comments on an early draft. This was work was supported by a NERC grants NE/T012226 to ATN, NE/K01627X/1 to PM, and BIO‐RED (NE/N012542/1) and ARBOLES to EG. microbes, soil carbon storage and climate change Publisher Copyright: © 2022 The Authors. Functional Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society.
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834608c6-970c-4b14-8794-eb5986c1449b
date added to LUP
2022-12-30 11:04:25
date last changed
2022-12-30 11:04:25
@article{834608c6-970c-4b14-8794-eb5986c1449b,
  abstract     = {{<p>Climate warming could destabilise the Earth's largest terrestrial store of reactive carbon (C), by accelerating the decomposition of soil organic matter. A third of that C store resides in the tropics. The potential for tropical soils to sequester C, or to act as an additional source of CO<sub>2</sub>, will depend on the balance of C inputs and outputs, mediated by the response of soil microbial communities and their activity to perturbation. We review the impact of warming on microbial communities and C storage in humid tropical forest soils over multiple time-scales. Recent in situ experiments indicate high sensitivity of tropical forest soil C mineralisation to warming in the short term. However, whether this will translate into long-term soil C decline remains unclear. At decadal time-scales, high sensitivity of soil C mineralisation to warming is consistent with the correlation between the inter-annual variation in the tropical land surface temperature and atmospheric CO<sub>2</sub> growth rate, and with simulations using the Carnegie-Ames-Stanford Approach biosphere model. This observed sensitivity may further contribute to climatic change over millennial time-scales, suggested by radiocarbon dating of organic matter in river basins showing a twofold acceleration in tropical soil C release during the late-glacial warming period. However, counter to this evidence, long-term stability of tropical soil C is suggested by observed steady-state soil C turnover across temperature gradients with elevation, and by the presence of C in tropical soils that pre-dates the Holocene Thermal Maximum and late-glacial warming periods. To help reconcile these recent experimental findings and long-term observations, we propose mechanisms to explain tropical soil C and microbial responses to warming across multiple time-scales. Combined in situ experimental and monitoring approaches—large-scale and cross-site—are urgently needed to resolve the interplay of these mechanisms across spatial and temporal scales, to shape a better understanding of the relationship between soil microbes and C storage in tropical soils. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.</p>}},
  author       = {{Nottingham, Andrew T. and Gloor, Emanuel and Bååth, Erland and Meir, Patrick}},
  issn         = {{0269-8463}},
  keywords     = {{CASA model; climate warming; Ratkowsky model; soil microbial community; soil organic matter; tropical forest}},
  language     = {{eng}},
  number       = {{6}},
  pages        = {{1338--1354}},
  publisher    = {{Wiley-Blackwell}},
  series       = {{Functional Ecology}},
  title        = {{Soil carbon and microbes in the warming tropics}},
  url          = {{http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.14050}},
  doi          = {{10.1111/1365-2435.14050}},
  volume       = {{36}},
  year         = {{2022}},
}