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Title: The response of soil carbon storage and microbially mediated carbon turnover to simulated climatic disturbance in a northern peatland forest. Revisiting the concept of soil organic matter recalcitrance

Abstract

The goal of this project was to investigate changes in the structure of dissolved and solid phase organic matter, the production of CO 2 and CH 4, and the composition of decomposer microbial communities in response to the climatic forcing of environmental processes that determine the balance between carbon gas production versus storage and sequestration in peatlands. Cutting-edge analytical chemistry and next generation sequencing of microbial genes were been applied to habitats at the Marcell Experimental Forest (MEF), where the US DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the USDA Forest Service are constructing a large-scale ecosystem study entitled, “Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Climatic and Environmental Change”(SPRUCE). Our study represented a comprehensive characterization of the sources, transformation, and decomposition of organic matter in the S1 bog at MEF. Multiple lines of evidence point to distinct, vertical zones of organic matter transformation: 1) the acrotelm consisting of living mosses, root material, and newly formed litter (0-30 cm), 2) the mesotelm, a mid-depth transition zone (30-75 cm) characterized by labile organic C compounds and intense decomposition, and 3) the underlying catotelm (below 75cm) characterized by refractory organic compounds as well as relatively low decomposition rates. These zones are in part defined bymore » physical changes in hydraulic conductivity and water table depth. O-alkyl-C, which represents the carbohydrate fraction in the peat, was shown to be an excellent proxy for soil decomposition rates. The carbon cycle in deep peat was shown to be fueled by modern carbon sources further indicating that hydrology and surface vegetation play a role in belowground carbon cycling. We provide the first metagenomic study of an ombrotrophic peat bog, with novel insights into microbial specialization and functions in this unique terrestrial ecosystem. Vertical structuring of microbial communities closely paralleled the chemical evolution of peat, with large shifts in microbial populations occurring in the biogeochemical hotspot, the mesotelm, where the highest rates of decomposition were detected. Stable isotope geochemistry and potential rates of methane production paralleled vertical changes in methanogen community composition to indicate a predominance of acetoclastic methanogenesis mediated by the Methanosarcinales in the mesotelm, while hydrogen-utilizing methanogens dominated in the deeper catotelm. Evidence pointed to the availability of phosphorus as well as nitrogen limiting the microbially-mediated turnover of organic carbon at MEF. Prior to initiation of the experimental treatments, our study provided key baseline data for the SPRUCE site on the vertical stratification of peat decomposition, key enzymatic pathways, and microbial taxa containing these pathways. The sensitivity of soil carbon turnover to climate change is strongly linked to recalcitrant carbon stocks and the temperature sensitivity of decomposition is thought to increase with increasing molecular complexity of carbon substrates. This project delivered results on how climate change perturbations impact the microbially-mediated turnover of recalcitrant organic matter in peatland forest soils, both under controlled conditions in the laboratory and at the ecosystem-scale in the field. This project revisited the concept of “recalcitrance” in the regulation of soil carbon turnover using a combination of natural abundance radiocarbon and optical spectroscopic measurements on bulk DOM, and high resolution molecular characterization of DOM. The project elucidated how organic matter reactivity and decomposition will respond to climate change in a both a qualitative (organic matter lability) and quantitiative (increased rates) manner. An Aromaticity Index was developed to represent a more direct and accurate parameter for modeling of DOM reactivity in peatlands. The abundance and community composition of soil microorganisms that mediate C cycling were interrogated with depth in the peat, with season, and in manipulated climate enclosures at unprecedented resolution. Therefore this project delivered strategic new insights on the functioning of peatland ecosystems that collectively store approximately one-third of the world's soil carbon. Furthermore, results from the detailed characterization of DOM lability and microbial community structure/ function will be employed to further develop biogeochemical models to include microbial respiration pathways as well as to track carbon flow with a term that incorporates relative reactivity based on aromaticity index. As it stands now, detailed soil organic matter structure and microbial parameters are not included in Earth system models.« less

Authors:
 [1]
  1. Georgia Inst. of Technology, Atlanta, GA (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Georgia Inst. of Technology, Atlanta, GA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
Contributing Org.:
Florida State University; Oak Ridge National Lab
OSTI Identifier:
1330571
Report Number(s):
DOE-GATECH-0007144
DE-SC0007144
DOE Contract Number:  
SC0007144
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; 58 GEOSCIENCES; 59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; soil organic matter; microorganisms; methane; greenhouse gases; carbon cycle

Citation Formats

Kostka, Joel. The response of soil carbon storage and microbially mediated carbon turnover to simulated climatic disturbance in a northern peatland forest. Revisiting the concept of soil organic matter recalcitrance. United States: N. p., 2015. Web. doi:10.2172/1330571.
Kostka, Joel. The response of soil carbon storage and microbially mediated carbon turnover to simulated climatic disturbance in a northern peatland forest. Revisiting the concept of soil organic matter recalcitrance. United States. doi:10.2172/1330571.
Kostka, Joel. Mon . "The response of soil carbon storage and microbially mediated carbon turnover to simulated climatic disturbance in a northern peatland forest. Revisiting the concept of soil organic matter recalcitrance". United States. doi:10.2172/1330571. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1330571.
@article{osti_1330571,
title = {The response of soil carbon storage and microbially mediated carbon turnover to simulated climatic disturbance in a northern peatland forest. Revisiting the concept of soil organic matter recalcitrance},
author = {Kostka, Joel},
abstractNote = {The goal of this project was to investigate changes in the structure of dissolved and solid phase organic matter, the production of CO2 and CH4, and the composition of decomposer microbial communities in response to the climatic forcing of environmental processes that determine the balance between carbon gas production versus storage and sequestration in peatlands. Cutting-edge analytical chemistry and next generation sequencing of microbial genes were been applied to habitats at the Marcell Experimental Forest (MEF), where the US DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the USDA Forest Service are constructing a large-scale ecosystem study entitled, “Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Climatic and Environmental Change”(SPRUCE). Our study represented a comprehensive characterization of the sources, transformation, and decomposition of organic matter in the S1 bog at MEF. Multiple lines of evidence point to distinct, vertical zones of organic matter transformation: 1) the acrotelm consisting of living mosses, root material, and newly formed litter (0-30 cm), 2) the mesotelm, a mid-depth transition zone (30-75 cm) characterized by labile organic C compounds and intense decomposition, and 3) the underlying catotelm (below 75cm) characterized by refractory organic compounds as well as relatively low decomposition rates. These zones are in part defined by physical changes in hydraulic conductivity and water table depth. O-alkyl-C, which represents the carbohydrate fraction in the peat, was shown to be an excellent proxy for soil decomposition rates. The carbon cycle in deep peat was shown to be fueled by modern carbon sources further indicating that hydrology and surface vegetation play a role in belowground carbon cycling. We provide the first metagenomic study of an ombrotrophic peat bog, with novel insights into microbial specialization and functions in this unique terrestrial ecosystem. Vertical structuring of microbial communities closely paralleled the chemical evolution of peat, with large shifts in microbial populations occurring in the biogeochemical hotspot, the mesotelm, where the highest rates of decomposition were detected. Stable isotope geochemistry and potential rates of methane production paralleled vertical changes in methanogen community composition to indicate a predominance of acetoclastic methanogenesis mediated by the Methanosarcinales in the mesotelm, while hydrogen-utilizing methanogens dominated in the deeper catotelm. Evidence pointed to the availability of phosphorus as well as nitrogen limiting the microbially-mediated turnover of organic carbon at MEF. Prior to initiation of the experimental treatments, our study provided key baseline data for the SPRUCE site on the vertical stratification of peat decomposition, key enzymatic pathways, and microbial taxa containing these pathways. The sensitivity of soil carbon turnover to climate change is strongly linked to recalcitrant carbon stocks and the temperature sensitivity of decomposition is thought to increase with increasing molecular complexity of carbon substrates. This project delivered results on how climate change perturbations impact the microbially-mediated turnover of recalcitrant organic matter in peatland forest soils, both under controlled conditions in the laboratory and at the ecosystem-scale in the field. This project revisited the concept of “recalcitrance” in the regulation of soil carbon turnover using a combination of natural abundance radiocarbon and optical spectroscopic measurements on bulk DOM, and high resolution molecular characterization of DOM. The project elucidated how organic matter reactivity and decomposition will respond to climate change in a both a qualitative (organic matter lability) and quantitiative (increased rates) manner. An Aromaticity Index was developed to represent a more direct and accurate parameter for modeling of DOM reactivity in peatlands. The abundance and community composition of soil microorganisms that mediate C cycling were interrogated with depth in the peat, with season, and in manipulated climate enclosures at unprecedented resolution. Therefore this project delivered strategic new insights on the functioning of peatland ecosystems that collectively store approximately one-third of the world's soil carbon. Furthermore, results from the detailed characterization of DOM lability and microbial community structure/ function will be employed to further develop biogeochemical models to include microbial respiration pathways as well as to track carbon flow with a term that incorporates relative reactivity based on aromaticity index. As it stands now, detailed soil organic matter structure and microbial parameters are not included in Earth system models.},
doi = {10.2172/1330571},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2015},
month = {9}
}