Peatland microbial community response to altered climate tempered by nutrient availability

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Northern latitude peatlands contain large reserves of soil carbon (C) due in part to climatic constraints on decomposition, including low temperatures and water inundated soils. Under future climate change scenarios these peatlands will experience warmer temperatures, extended growing seasons, and a potential draw down of the water table, all of which improve conditions for decomposition, as well as photosynthesis. Increased photosynthesis may feedback to increase decomposition of soil C through increased root exudates to belowground decomposer communities, primarily as low molecular weight carbon compounds (LMWCC). In this study, we examine the interactive effects of climate, a combination of three temperatures and two moisture regimes, and root exudates on microbial decomposer function, measured as CO2 respiration, biomass, and potential enzyme activity. We had four substrate treatments: two common LMWCC (glycine or glucose + citric acid), chitin to simulate fungal necromass, and DI as the control. Our results support our first hypothesis that increasing temperature will increase C respiration across substrate and moisture treatments. Our second hypothesis was that compared to control and chitin, soluble substrates (i.e., LMWCC) will enhance respiration across all climate treatments. This was only partially supported. As expected, the two LMWCC substrate additions increased C respiration above the two other substrate additions at current recorded growing season average (12 °C, low treatment) and high (20 °C, med treatment) temperature treatments. Surprisingly, when the system was pushed to a higher temperature extreme (28 °C, high treatment), the low moisture controls respired more C than the other substrate × climate treatments. Potential enzyme activity and demand for phosphorus appear to explain these trends as opposed to changes to microbial biomass. Our results indicate that under projected future high temperatures, the peatland microbial community allocates additional labile C resources to enzyme production to meet nutrient demands, and as such, dampens C lost through respiration.




Keiser, A. D., Smith, M., Bell, S., & Hofmockel, K. S. (2019). Peatland microbial community response to altered climate tempered by nutrient availability. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 137.

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