Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Gene-informed decomposition model predicts lower soil carbon loss due to persistent microbial adaptation to warming.


Soil microbial respiration is an important source of uncertainty in projecting future climate and carbon (C) cycle feedbacks. However, its feedbacks to climate warming and underlying microbial mechanisms are still poorly understood. Here we show that the temperature sensitivity of soil microbial respiration (Q10) in a temperate grassland ecosystem persistently decreases by 12.0 ± 3.7% across 7 years of warming. Also, the shifts of microbial communities play critical roles in regulating thermal adaptation of soil respiration. Incorporating microbial functional gene abundance data into a microbially-enabled ecosystem model significantly improves the modeling performance of soil microbial respiration by 5-19%, and reduces model parametric uncertainty by 55-71%. In addition, modeling analyses show that the microbial thermal adaptation can lead to considerably less heterotrophic respiration (11.6 ± 7.5%), and hence less soil C loss. If such microbially mediated dampening effects occur generally across different spatial and temporal scales, the potential positive feedback of soil microbial respiration in response to climate warming may be less than previously predicted.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View