Modest Residual Effects of Short-Term Warming, Altered Hydration, and Biocrust Successional State on Dryland Soil Heterotrophic Carbon and Nitrogen Cycling

Colin Tucker, Scott Ferrenberg, Sasha C. Reed

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Biological soil crusts (biocrusts) on the Colorado Plateau may fuel carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycling of soil heterotrophic organisms throughout the region. Late successional moss and lichen biocrusts, in particular, can increase soil C and N availability, but some data suggest these biocrust types will be replaced by early successional cyanobacterial biocrusts as the region undergoes warming and aridification. In this study, we evaluated the short-term interactive effects of biocrust successional state and elevated temperature on soil heterotrophic C and N cycling (specifically, soil respiration, N2O emissions, microbial biomass C and N, and soluble C and N). We collected soils following an 87-day greenhouse mesocosm experiment where the soils had been topped with different biocrust successional states (moss-dominated, cyanobacteria-dominated, or no biocrust) and had experienced different temperatures (ambient and warmed), under an artificial precipitation regime. Following this pre-incubation mesocosm phase, the soils were assessed using a short-term (2-day) laboratory incubation to determine the cumulative effect of the elevated temperature and altered biocrust successional state on the temperature sensitivity of soil heterotrophic C and N cycling. We found that there were interactive effects of biocrust successional state and exposure to warmer temperatures during the mesocosm phase under greenhouse conditions on the rate and temperature sensitivity of soil heterotrophic C and N cycling in laboratory incubations. Soils collected from beneath late successional biocrusts exhibited higher C and N cycling rates than those from beneath early successional crusts, while warming reduced both the magnitude and the temperature sensitivity of C and N cycling. The inhibiting effect of warming, was most evident in soils from beneath late successional biocrusts, which, during the mesocosm phase, also exhibited the greatest reductions in gross primary production and respiration in response to the warming treatment. Taken together, these data suggest that an overall effect of climate warming may be increasing resource limitation of the soil heterotrophic C and N cycles in the region, which may magnify alterations associated with the changes in biocrust community structure documented in previous studies. Overall, results from this study suggest that soil heterotrophic biogeochemical cycling is affected by interactions between temperature and the biocrust community that lives atop the mineral soil, with important implications for C and N cycling into the future.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number467157
    JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
    Volume8
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Oct 28 2020

    Keywords

    • biological soil crust
    • carbon
    • climate change
    • microbial biomass
    • NO emission
    • nitrogen
    • soil respiration
    • temperature sensitivity

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