Labile soil carbon inputs mediate the soil microbial community composition and plant residue decomposition rates
Author for correspondence:
Marie-Anne de Graaff
Tel: +1 208 426 3262
- •Root carbon (C) inputs may regulate decomposition rates in soil, and in this study we ask: how do labile C inputs regulate decomposition of plant residues, and soil microbial communities?
- •In a 14 d laboratory incubation, we added C compounds often found in root exudates in seven different concentrations (0, 0.7, 1.4, 3.6, 7.2, 14.4 and 21.7 mg C g−1 soil) to soils amended with and without 13C-labeled plant residue. We measured CO2 respiration and shifts in relative fungal and bacterial rRNA gene copy numbers using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR).
- •Increased labile C input enhanced total C respiration, but only addition of C at low concentrations (0.7 mg C g−1) stimulated plant residue decomposition (+2%). Intermediate concentrations (1.4, 3.6 mg C g−1) had no impact on plant residue decomposition, while greater concentrations of C (> 7.2 mg C g−1) reduced decomposition (−50%). Concurrently, high exudate concentrations (> 3.6 mg C g−1) increased fungal and bacterial gene copy numbers, whereas low exudate concentrations (< 3.6 mg C g−1) increased metabolic activity rather than gene copy numbers.
- •These results underscore that labile soil C inputs can regulate decomposition of more recalcitrant soil C by controlling the activity and relative abundance of fungi and bacteria.