© 2016, Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved. Changes in soil organic carbon (SOC) stability may alter carbon release from the soil and, consequently, atmospheric CO2concentration. The mean annual temperature (MAT) can change the soil physico-chemical characteristics and alter the quality and quantity of litter input into the soil that regulate SOC stability. However, the relationship between climate and SOC stability remains unclear. A 500-day incubation experiment was carried out on soils from an 11 °C-gradient mountainous system on Changbai Mountain in northeast China. Soil respiration during the incubation fitted well to a three-pool (labile, intermediate and stable) SOC decomposition model. A correlation analysis revealed that the MAT only influenced the labile carbon pool size and not the SOC stability. The intermediate carbon pool contributed dominantly to cumulative carbon release. The size of the intermediate pool was strongly related to the percentage of sand particle. The decomposition rate of the intermediate pool was negatively related to soil nitrogen availability. Because both soil texture and nitrogen availability are temperature independent, the stability of SOC was not associated with the MAT, but was heavily influenced by the intrinsic processes of SOC formation and the nutrient status.