Global change biology vol:16 issue:10 pages:2789-2798
The ability to predict C cycle responses to temperature changes depends on the accurate representation of temperature sensitivity (Q(10)) of soil organic matter (SOM) decomposition in C models for different C pools and soil depths. Theoretically, Q(10) of SOM decomposition is determined by SOM quality and availability (referred to here as SOM protection). Here, we focus on the role of SOM protection in attenuating the intrinsic, SOM quality dependent Q(10). To assess the separate effects of SOM quality and protection, we incubated topsoil and subsoil samples characterized by differences in SOM protection under optimum moisture conditions at 25 degrees C and 35 degrees C. Although lower SOM quality in the subsoil should lead to a higher Q(10) according to kinetic theory, we observed a much lower overall temperature response in subsoil compared with the topsoil. Q(10) values determined for respired SOM fractions of decreasing lability within the topsoil increased from 1.9 for the most labile to 3.8 for the least labile respired SOM, whereas corresponding Q(10) values for the subsoil did not show this trend (Q(10) between 1.4 and 0.9). These results indicate the existence of a limiting factor that attenuates the intrinsic effect of SOM quality on Q(10) in the subsoil. A parallel incubation experiment of 13C-labeled plant material added to top- and subsoil showed that decomposition of an unprotected C substrate of equal quality responds similarly to temperature changes in top- and subsoil. This further confirms that the attenuating effect on Q(10) in the subsoil originates from SOM protection rather than from microbial properties or other nutrient limitations. In conclusion, we found experimental evidence that SOM protection can attenuate the intrinsic Q(10) of SOM decomposition.