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Decomposition of soil organic carbon influenced by soil temperature and moisture in Andisol and Inceptisol paddy soils in a cold temperate region of Japan

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Understanding the effects of temperature and moisture on soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics is crucial to predict the cycling of C in terrestrial ecosystems under a changing climate. For single rice cropping system, there are two contrasting phases of SOC decomposition in rice paddy soils: mineralization under aerobic conditions during the off-rice season and fermentation under anaerobic conditions during the growth season. This study aimed to investigate the effects of soil temperature and moisture on SOC decomposition under the aerobic and subsequently anaerobic conditions.

Materials and methods

Two Japanese paddy soils (Andisol and Inceptisol) were firstly incubated under four temperatures (±5, 5, 15, and 25°C) and two moisture levels (60 and 100% water-filled pore space (WFPS)) under aerobic conditions for 24 weeks. Then, these samples were incubated for 4 weeks at 30°C and under anaerobic conditions. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) productions were measured during the two incubation stages to monitor the SOC decomposition dynamics. The temperature sensitivity of SOC was estimated by calculation of the Q10 parameter.

Results and discussion

The total CO2 production after the 24-week aerobic incubation was significantly higher in both soils for increasing soil temperature and moisture (P < 0.01). During the subsequent anaerobic incubation, total decomposed C (sum of CO2 and CH4 productions) was significantly lower in samples that had been aerobically incubated at higher temperatures (15 and 25°C). Moreover, CH4 production was extremely low in all soil samples. Total decomposed C after the two incubation stages ranged from 256.8 to 1146.1 mg C kg−1 in the Andisol and from 301.3 to 668.8 mg C kg−1 in the Inceptisol. However, the ratios of total decomposed C to SOC ranged from 0.29 to 1.29% in the Andisol and from 2.21 to 4.91% in the Inceptisol.


Both aerobic and anaerobic decompositions of SOC in two paddy soils were significantly affected by soil temperature and moisture. Maintaining optimal soil temperature and medium moisture during the off-rice season might be an appropriate agricultural management to mitigate CH4 emission in the following rice growth season. Although it is high in SOC content, Andisol has less biodegradable components compared to Inceptisol and this could be a probable reason for the distinct difference in temperature sensitivity of SOC decomposition between two paddy soils.

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We gratefully acknowledge Dr. M. Kumugai and Mr. H. Shiono for providing the soil samples and laboratory mates for their assistance on experimental managements. This study is financially supported by UGAS-IU Student Research Grant from the United Graduate School of Agricultural Sciences, Iwate University, and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21228701).

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Correspondence to Weiguo Cheng or Ronggui Hu.

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Responsible editor: Nives Ogrinc

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Tang, S., Cheng, W., Hu, R. et al. Decomposition of soil organic carbon influenced by soil temperature and moisture in Andisol and Inceptisol paddy soils in a cold temperate region of Japan. J Soils Sediments 17, 1843–1851 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-016-1607-y

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  • Aerobic and anaerobic incubations
  • Andisol
  • Inceptisol
  • Q10
  • SOC decomposition