Effects of drought and elevated temperature on biochemical composition of forage plants and their impact on carbon storage in grassland soil
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- Sanaullah, M., Chabbi, A., Girardin, C. et al. Plant Soil (2014) 374: 767. doi:10.1007/s11104-013-1890-y
The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of future warming and drought on (1) the biochemical composition of above-ground biomass of forage plants (Festuca arundinacea and Dactylis glomerata), (2) the potential mineralization of this material in soil, and (3) its priming effect on native soil organic matter.
We sampled above-ground plant material from spring regrowth and summer regrowth of a climate change experiment. While in spring, the plants were well watered, the summer regrowth was exposed to drought and elevated temperature (+3 °C) by infrared heating of the canopy during 3 weeks. We assessed the elemental and isotopic composition, lignin and non-cellulosic carbohydrate content and composition of plant material grown under all three conditions. Its mineralization potential in soil and priming effects were evaluated during laboratory incubation.
Warming had no significant effect on elemental and stable isotope composition of both plant materials. In contrast, it resulted in reduction of lignin content for both plant species and decrease of the lignin-to-N ratio for F. arundinacea and increased non-cellulosic carbohydrate content for D. glomerata. Summer regrowth was characterised by increase of δ13C values, which is consistent with variations in stomatal conductance due to water shortage. Moreover, summer drought induced an increase in N content leading to decrease of the C/N ratio and increase of lignin-to-N ratio of summer regrowth compared to spring regrowth. Differences in decomposition were small, while priming effects were more strongly altered by the different exposure to enviromental.
Our results provide direct experimental evidence that extreme climatic events (high temperature and precipitation deficit) have an influence on soil carbon storage particularly through their effect on priming of native soil organic matter induced by altered plant litter. These effects seem to be governed by alterations of stoichiometry and to a smaller extent by alterations of plant chemical composition.