Temperature sensitivity of microbial respiration, nitrogen mineralization, and potential soil enzyme activities in organic alpine soils



[1] Investigations focusing on the temperature sensitivity of microbial activity and nutrient turnover in soils improve our understanding of potential effects of global warming. This study investigates the temperature sensitivity of C mineralization, N mineralization, and potential enzyme activities involved in the C and N cycle (tyrosine amino-peptidase, leucine amino-peptidase, ß-glucosidase, ß-xylosidase, N-acetyl-ß-glucosaminidase). Four different study sites in the Austrian alpine zone were selected, and soils were sampled in three seasons (summer, autumn, and winter). A simple first-order exponential equation was used to calculate constant Q10 values for the C and N mineralization over the investigated temperature range (0–30°C). The Q10 values of the C mineralization (average 2.0) for all study sites were significantly higher than for the N mineralization (average 1.7). The Q10 values of both activities were significantly negatively related to a soil organic matter quality index calculated by the ratios of respiration to the organic soil carbon and mineralized N to the total soil nitrogen. The chemical soil properties or microbial biomass did not affect the Q10 values of C and N mineralization. Moreover, the Q10 values showed no distinct pattern according to sampling date, indicating that the substrate quality and other factors are more important. Using a flexible model function, the analysis of relative temperature sensitivity (RTS) showed that the temperature sensitivity of activities increased with decreasing temperature. The C and N mineralization and potential amino-peptidase activities (tyrosine and leucine) showed an almost constant temperature dependence over 0–30°C. In contrast, ß-glucosidase, ß-xylosidase, and N-acetyl-ß-glucosaminidase showed a distinctive increase in temperature sensitivity with decreasing temperature. Low temperature at the winter sampling date caused a greater increase in the RTS of all microbial activities than for the autumn and summer sampling dates. Our results indicate (1) a disproportion of the RTS for potential enzyme activities of the C and N cycle and (2) a disproportion of the RTS for easily degradable C compounds (ß-glucose, ß-xylose) compared with the C mineralization of soil organic matter. Thus temperature may play an important role in regulating the decay of different soil organic matter fractions due to differences in the relative temperature sensitivities of enzyme activities.