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Elevated temperature shifts soil N cycling from microbial immobilization to enhanced mineralization, nitrification and denitrification across global terrestrial ecosystems.

  • Author(s): Dai, Zhongmin
  • Yu, Mengjie
  • Chen, Huaihai
  • Zhao, Haochun
  • Huang, Yanlan
  • Su, Weiqin
  • Xia, Fang
  • Chang, Scott X
  • Brookes, Philip C
  • Dahlgren, Randy A
  • Xu, Jianming
  • et al.

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We assessed the response of soil microbial nitrogen (N) cycling and associated functional genes to elevated temperature at the global scale. A meta-analysis of 1,270 observations from 134 publications indicated that elevated temperature decreased soil microbial biomass N and increased N mineralization rates, both in the presence and absence of plants. These findings infer that elevated temperature drives microbially mediated N cycling processes from dominance by anabolic to catabolic reaction processes. Elevated temperature increased soil nitrification and denitrification rates, leading to an increase in N2 O emissions of up to 227%, whether plants were present or not. Rates of N mineralization, denitrification and N2 O emission demonstrated significant positive relationships with rates of CO2 emissions under elevated temperatures, suggesting that microbial N cycling processes were associated with enhanced microbial carbon (C) metabolism due to soil warming. The response in the abundance of relevant genes to elevated temperature was not always consistent with changes in N cycling processes. While elevated temperature increased the abundances of the nirS gene with plants and nosZ genes without plants, there was no effect on the abundances of the ammonia-oxidizing archaea amoA gene, ammonia-oxidizing bacteria amoA and nirK genes. This study provides the first global-scale assessment demonstrating that elevated temperature shifts N cycling from microbial immobilization to enhanced mineralization, nitrification and denitrification in terrestrial ecosystems. These findings infer that elevated temperatures have a profound impact on global N cycling processes with implications of a positive feedback to global climate and emphasize the close linkage between soil microbial C and N cycling.

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