, Volume 113, Issue 1–3, pp 359–368 | Cite as

Reduction of the temperature sensitivity of soil organic matter decomposition with sustained temperature increase

  • Joseph M. Craine
  • Noah Fierer
  • Kendra K. McLauchlan
  • Andrew J. Elmore


The degree to which microbial communities adjust their decomposition of soil carbon over time in response to long-term increases in temperature is one of the key uncertainties in our modeling of the responses of terrestrial ecosystems to warming. To better understand changes in temperature sensitivity of soil microbial communities to long-term increases in soil temperature, we incubated 27 soils for one year with both short-term and long-term manipulations of temperature. In response to increasing temperature short-term from 20 to 30 °C, respiration rates increased more than threefold on average across soils. Yet, in response to long-term increases in temperature, respiration rates increased approximately half as much as they did to short-term increases in temperature. Short-term Q10 of recalcitrant C correlated positively with long-term Q10 measured between 10 and 20 °C, yet there was no relationship between short-term Q10 and long-term Q10 between 20 and 30 °C. In all, under laboratory conditions, it is clear that there is reduction in the temperature sensitivity of decomposition to long-term increases in temperature that disassociate short- and long-term responses of microbial decomposition to temperature. Determining the fate of soil organic matter to increased temperature will not only require further research on the controls and mechanisms of these patterns, but also require models to incorporate responses to both short-term and long-term increases in temperature.


Decomposition Temperature Acclimation Soils Carbon 

Supplementary material

10533_2012_9762_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 18 kb)
10533_2012_9762_MOESM2_ESM.tif (7.6 mb)
Fig. 5 Cumulative respiration of C for 27 soils exposed to long-term differences in temperature (10°C = closed circles, 20°C = open circles, 30°C = closed squares). Lines for each temperature x soil combination are derived from the 2-pool model. Soils at a given temperature for which the two-pool model could not be successfully parameterized do not have a line shown (DOCX 18 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph M. Craine
    • 1
  • Noah Fierer
    • 2
    • 3
  • Kendra K. McLauchlan
    • 4
  • Andrew J. Elmore
    • 5
  1. 1.Division of BiologyKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental SciencesUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  4. 4.Department of GeographyKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA
  5. 5.Appalachian LaboratoryUniversity of Maryland Center for Environmental ScienceFrostburgUSA

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