Responses to increases in temperature of heterotrophic micro-organisms in soils from the maritime Antarctic
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Understanding relationships between environmental changes and soil microbial respiration is critical for predicting changes in soil organic carbon (SOC) fluxes and content. The maritime Antarctic is experiencing one of the fastest rates of warming in the world and is therefore a key location to examine the effect of temperature on SOC mineralization by the respiration of soil micro-organisms. However, depletion of the labile substrates at higher temperatures relative to the total SOC and greater temperature sensitivity of recalcitrant components of the SOC confound simple interpretations of the effects of warming. We have addressed these issues by testing the hypothesis that respiration by heterotrophic soil micro-organisms is not down-regulated with increasing temperature by comparing the increase in biomass-specific respiration rate with temperature to the increase in respiration rate per unit SOC. We used five soils from the maritime Antarctic ranging in latitude and SOC content and measured the soil respiratory responses to temperatures ranging from 2 to 50 °C in laboratory incubations lasting up to 31 days. In all cases, soil respiration increased with temperature up to 50 °C, even though this exceeds the temperatures normally be experienced, indicating that the community contained sufficient physiological diversity to be able to respire over large temperature ranges. Both the biomass-specific respiration rate and the overall rate of SOC mineralization increased with temperature, which we interpret as respiration by soil micro-organisms not down-regulating relative to temperature.
KeywordsAcclimation Carbon dioxide Soil organic matter Thermal
Funding was supplied by the UK Natural Environment Research Council through the Antarctic Funding Initiative (AFI 7/05; NE/D00893X/1). Logistical support was provided by the British Antarctic Survey and the Royal Navy. Sun Benhua was supported by the Chinese 111 Project (No. B12007) and V A Laudicina in part by the OECD; both these sources are gratefully acknowledged.
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