Global synthesis for the scaling of soil microbial nitrogen to phosphorus in terrestrial ecosystems

Zhiqiang Wang, Mingcheng Wang, Kailiang Yu, Huifeng Hu, Yuanhe Yang, Philippe Ciais, Ashley P. Ballantyne, Karl J. Niklas, Heng Huang, Buqing Yao, S. Joseph Wright

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are associated with the life history of all organisms. Soil microbes play essential roles in nutrient cycling and ecosystem dynamics. As compared to plants, however, our understanding of the soil microbial N versus P scaling relationship remains limited. In this study, we used a comprehensive dataset comprising 2210 observations from 422 sites worldwide to examine microbial C, N, and P concentrations and C:N:P ratios, and to determine the scaling of microbial N versus P in different ecosystems and spatial scales (i.e. soil depths, latitudinal zones, and local sites). The global mean values of microbial C, N, and P concentrations were 721.5 mg kg-1, 84.7 mg kg-1, 37.6 mg kg-1, respectively, whereas C:N, C:P, and N:P ratios were 9.5, 30, and 3.4, respectively. Microbial C, N, and P concentrations varied within and across different ecosystems and spatial scales, but C:N:P ratios varied surprisingly little. The numerical value of the scaling exponent (i.e. the slope of the log-log linear relationship) of microbial N versus P was 0.89 across the entire dataset and for different ecosystems. However, the numerical value of the exponent varied significantly across different spatial scales. Soil total P was the largest contributor to the variation observed in the scaling of microbial N versus P at different local sites. These findings have important implications for predicting soil microbial growth rates and improving our understanding of nutrient cycling in plant-soil-microbe systems.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number044034
    JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
    Volume16
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Apr 2021

    Keywords

    • nitrogen
    • nitrogen:phosphorus ratio
    • phosphorus
    • scaling exponent
    • soil microbial biomass

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