Modeling priming effects on microbial consumption of dissolved organic carbon in rivers

E. R. Hotchkiss, R. O. Hall, M. A. Baker, E. J. Rosi-Marshall, J. L. Tank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations

Abstract

Rivers receive and process large quantities of terrestrial dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Biologically available (unstable) DOC leached from primary producers may stimulate (i.e., prime) the consumption of more stable terrestrially derived DOC by heterotrophic microbes. We measured microbial DOC consumption (i.e., decay rates) from contrasting C sources in 10 rivers in the western and Midwestern United States using short-term bioassays of river water, soil and algal leachates, glucose, and commercial humate. We added inorganic nutrients (ammonium and phosphorus) to a subset of bioassays. We also amended a subset of river, soil, and commercial humate bioassays with glucose or algal leachates to test the hypothesis that unstable DOC primes consumption of more stable DOC. We used prior measurements of source-specific DOC bioavailability, linked with a Bayesian process model, to estimate means and posterior probability distributions for source-specific DOC decay rates in multisource bioassays. Modeled priming effects ranged from a -130 to +370% change in more stable DOC decay when incubated with unstable DOC. Glucose increased modeled river DOC decay by an average of 87% among all rivers. Glucose and algal leachates increased soil leachate and commercial humate decay by an average of 25% above background rates. Inorganic nutrient additions did not have consistent effects on DOC decay, likely because most of the study rivers had high ambient background nutrients. Our results demonstrate that the priming effect can augment DOC decay in rivers. In addition, Bayesian models can be used to estimate mechanisms driving aquatic ecosystem processes that are difficult to measure directly. Key Points We estimated priming of soil and river DOC decay by algal leachates and glucose Modeled priming of soil and river DOC decay ranged from -130 to +370% Our results demonstrate that the priming effect can augment DOC decay in rivers

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)982-995
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Volume119
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2014

Keywords

  • Bayesian inverse model
  • biological availability
  • carbon cycling
  • dissolved organic carbon
  • priming effect
  • rivers

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