Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 51, Issue 7, pp 857–867 | Cite as

Forest conversion stimulated deep soil C losses and decreased C recalcitrance through priming effect in subtropical China

  • Maokui Lü
  • Jinsheng Xie
  • Chao Wang
  • Jianfen Guo
  • Minhuang Wang
  • Xiaofei Liu
  • Yuehmin Chen
  • Guangshui Chen
  • Yusheng Yang
Original Paper


The mechanisms about high soil organic C (SOC) loss from deep soil when natural forests are converted into forest plantations are poorly understood. In this study, we added 13C-glucose to the top soil (0–10 cm) and deep soil (60–80 cm) in order to investigate the OC mineralization and priming effect (PE) of soil under an evergreen broad-leaved forest (BF) or under Chinese fir (CF) plantation. The PE was quantified from the variation in soil C-CO2 evolution caused by adding 13C-glucose to soil. The conversion of BF into CF decreased the SOC with the soil depth significantly. The cumulative C mineralization of the top soil was significantly higher in BF than in CF (794.2 and 503.6 mg kg−1 soil, respectively), but no significant difference was found in the deep soil layer (145.2 and 150.4 mg kg−1 soil for BF and CF). Specific mineralization rate, expressed as gram C per kilogram SOC, was the highest in the deep soil of CF (36.7 g kg−1 SOC) and the lowest in top soil of BF (21.1 g kg−1 SOC), probably because the SOC was less recalcitrant to microbial decomposition in deeper than top layer of the CF due to its relatively high concentration of labile C. The PE was higher in deep layer than in top layer of BF soil (166.8 and 116.7 mg kg−1, respectively), whereas the opposite was observed in CF (100.1 and 153.9 mg kg−1, respectively). The PE was significantly correlated to the specific C mineralization (r = −0.92, P < 0.001), suggesting that PE increased significantly with SOC recalcitrance, defined as the specific mineralization rate of SOC. Moreover, Gram-negative bacteria (cy17:0), fungi (18:1ω9c), and actinomycete (10Me19:0) phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs) were positively correlated with PE intensity, indicating that these microbial groups may promote positive SOC priming. We inferred that the priming is mainly controlled by the soil organic matter (SOM) recalcitrance and soil microbial community composition. Probably, the deep soil C losses were due to the increase in available C in the soil profile by forest conversion associated with changes in microbial diversity and increase in recalcitrant C losses in the deep soil layer.


Deep soil Forest conversion PLFAs Priming mechanisms SOM stability Subtropics 



The research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31130013), the National “973” Program of China (No. 2014CB954003), the specialized research fund for the doctoral program of high school (No. 20113503130001), and the National Forestry Public Welfare Industry Research special grant (No. 201304205). We thank the editors and four anonymous reviewers for their suggestions to improve the manuscript. Thanks also to Ms. Yanxiang Zhou and Mengqing Huang for their assistance in the laboratory.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maokui Lü
    • 1
  • Jinsheng Xie
    • 1
    • 2
  • Chao Wang
    • 3
  • Jianfen Guo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Minhuang Wang
    • 1
  • Xiaofei Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yuehmin Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Guangshui Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yusheng Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Key Laboratory for Subtropical Mountain Ecology (Ministry of Science and Technology and Fujian Province Funded), School of Geographical ScienceFujian Normal UniversityFuzhouChina
  2. 2.Institute of Geography SciencesFujian Normal UniversityFuzhouChina
  3. 3.Institute of Applied EcologyChinese Academy of SciencesShenyangChina

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