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Keywords:

  • Carbon dioxide enrichment;
  • dissolved organic carbon turnover;
  • microbial biomass;
  • respiration;
  • soil organic carbon;
  • soil warming;
  • stable isotopes

Abstract

The evidence for the contribution of soil warming to changes in atmospheric CO2 concentrations and carbon stocks of temperate forest ecosystems is equivocal. Here, we use data from a beech/oak forest on concentrations and stable isotope ratios of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), phosphate buffer-extractable organic carbon, soil organic carbon (SOC), respiration and microbial gross assimilation of N to show that respired soil carbon originated from DOC. However, the respiration was not dependent on the DOC concentration but exceeded the daily DOC pool three to four times, suggesting that DOC was turned over several times per day. A mass flow model helped to calculate that a maximum of 40% of the daily DOC production was derived from SOC and to demonstrate that degradation of SOC is limiting respiration of DOC. The carbon flow model on SOC, DOC, microbial C mobilization/immobilization and respiration is linked by temperature-dependent microbial and enzyme activity to global warming effects of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere.