skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Annual Removal of Aboveground Plant Biomass Alters Soil Microbial Responses to Warming

Abstract

Clipping (i.e., harvesting aboveground plant biomass) is common in agriculture and for bioenergy production. However, microbial responses to clipping in the context of climate warming are poorly understood. We investigated the interactive effects of grassland warming and clipping on soil properties and plant and microbial communities, in particular, on microbial functional genes. Clipping alone did not change the plant biomass production, but warming and clipping combined increased the C4 peak biomass by 47% and belowground net primary production by 110%. Clipping alone and in combination with warming decreased the soil carbon input from litter by 81% and 75%, respectively. With less carbon input, the abundances of genes involved in degrading relatively recalcitrant carbon increased by 38% to 137% in response to either clipping or the combined treatment, which could weaken long-term soil carbon stability and trigger positive feedback with respect to warming. Clipping alone also increased the abundance of genes for nitrogen fixation, mineralization, and denitrification by 32% to 39%. Such potentially stimulated nitrogen fixation could help compensate for the 20% decline in soil ammonium levels caused by clipping alone and could contribute to unchanged plant biomass levels. Moreover, clipping tended to interact antagonistically with warming, especially with respect tomore » effects on nitrogen cycling genes, demonstrating that single-factor studies cannot predict multifactorial changes. These results revealed that clipping alone or in combination with warming altered soil and plant properties as well as the abundance and structure of soil microbial functional genes. Aboveground biomass removal for biofuel production needs to be reconsidered, as the long-term soil carbon stability may be weakened. IMPORTANCE Global change involves simultaneous alterations, including those caused by climate warming and land management practices (e.g., clipping). Data on the interactive effects of warming and clipping on ecosystems remain elusive, particularly in microbial ecology. This study found that clipping alters microbial responses to warming and demonstrated the effects of antagonistic interactions between clipping and warming on microbial functional genes. Clipping alone or combined with warming enriched genes degrading relatively recalcitrant carbon, likely reflecting the decreased quantity of soil carbon input from litter, which could weaken long-term soil C stability and trigger positive warming feedback. These results have important implications in assessing and predicting the consequences of global climate change and indicate that the removal of aboveground biomass for biofuel production may need to be reconsidered.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [2];  [2];  [3];  [2]; ORCiD logo [2];  [2];  [2];  [2];  [2];  [3];  [4];  [5]
  1. Tsinghua Univ., Beijing (China). State Key Joint Laboratory of Environment Simulation and Pollution Control, School of Environment; Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK (United States) Institute for Environmental Genomics; Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK (United States). Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology
  2. Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK (United States). Institute for Environmental Genomics; Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK (United States). Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology
  3. Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK (United States). Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology
  4. Michigan State Univ., East Lansing, MI (United States). Center for Microbial Ecology
  5. Tsinghua Univ., Beijing (China). State Key Joint Laboratory of Environment Simulation and Pollution Control, School of Environment; Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK (United States). Institute for Environmental Genomics; Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK (United States). Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology; Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK (United States). School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Sciences; Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States). Earth and Environmental Sciences Division
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
OSTI Identifier:
1377459
Grant/Contract Number:
AC02-05CH11231
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
mBio (Online)
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Name: mBio (Online); Journal Volume: 7; Journal Issue: 5; Journal ID: ISSN 2150-7511
Publisher:
American Society for Microbiology
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; 60 APPLIED LIFE SCIENCES

Citation Formats

Xue, Kai, Yuan, Mengting M., Xie, Jianping, Li, Dejun, Qin, Yujia, Hale, Lauren E., Wu, Liyou, Deng, Ye, He, Zhili, Van Nostrand, Joy D., Luo, Yiqi, Tiedje, James M., and Zhou, Jizhong. Annual Removal of Aboveground Plant Biomass Alters Soil Microbial Responses to Warming. United States: N. p., 2016. Web. doi:10.1128/mBio.00976-16.
Xue, Kai, Yuan, Mengting M., Xie, Jianping, Li, Dejun, Qin, Yujia, Hale, Lauren E., Wu, Liyou, Deng, Ye, He, Zhili, Van Nostrand, Joy D., Luo, Yiqi, Tiedje, James M., & Zhou, Jizhong. Annual Removal of Aboveground Plant Biomass Alters Soil Microbial Responses to Warming. United States. doi:10.1128/mBio.00976-16.
Xue, Kai, Yuan, Mengting M., Xie, Jianping, Li, Dejun, Qin, Yujia, Hale, Lauren E., Wu, Liyou, Deng, Ye, He, Zhili, Van Nostrand, Joy D., Luo, Yiqi, Tiedje, James M., and Zhou, Jizhong. 2016. "Annual Removal of Aboveground Plant Biomass Alters Soil Microbial Responses to Warming". United States. doi:10.1128/mBio.00976-16. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1377459.
@article{osti_1377459,
title = {Annual Removal of Aboveground Plant Biomass Alters Soil Microbial Responses to Warming},
author = {Xue, Kai and Yuan, Mengting M. and Xie, Jianping and Li, Dejun and Qin, Yujia and Hale, Lauren E. and Wu, Liyou and Deng, Ye and He, Zhili and Van Nostrand, Joy D. and Luo, Yiqi and Tiedje, James M. and Zhou, Jizhong},
abstractNote = {Clipping (i.e., harvesting aboveground plant biomass) is common in agriculture and for bioenergy production. However, microbial responses to clipping in the context of climate warming are poorly understood. We investigated the interactive effects of grassland warming and clipping on soil properties and plant and microbial communities, in particular, on microbial functional genes. Clipping alone did not change the plant biomass production, but warming and clipping combined increased the C4 peak biomass by 47% and belowground net primary production by 110%. Clipping alone and in combination with warming decreased the soil carbon input from litter by 81% and 75%, respectively. With less carbon input, the abundances of genes involved in degrading relatively recalcitrant carbon increased by 38% to 137% in response to either clipping or the combined treatment, which could weaken long-term soil carbon stability and trigger positive feedback with respect to warming. Clipping alone also increased the abundance of genes for nitrogen fixation, mineralization, and denitrification by 32% to 39%. Such potentially stimulated nitrogen fixation could help compensate for the 20% decline in soil ammonium levels caused by clipping alone and could contribute to unchanged plant biomass levels. Moreover, clipping tended to interact antagonistically with warming, especially with respect to effects on nitrogen cycling genes, demonstrating that single-factor studies cannot predict multifactorial changes. These results revealed that clipping alone or in combination with warming altered soil and plant properties as well as the abundance and structure of soil microbial functional genes. Aboveground biomass removal for biofuel production needs to be reconsidered, as the long-term soil carbon stability may be weakened. IMPORTANCE Global change involves simultaneous alterations, including those caused by climate warming and land management practices (e.g., clipping). Data on the interactive effects of warming and clipping on ecosystems remain elusive, particularly in microbial ecology. This study found that clipping alters microbial responses to warming and demonstrated the effects of antagonistic interactions between clipping and warming on microbial functional genes. Clipping alone or combined with warming enriched genes degrading relatively recalcitrant carbon, likely reflecting the decreased quantity of soil carbon input from litter, which could weaken long-term soil C stability and trigger positive warming feedback. These results have important implications in assessing and predicting the consequences of global climate change and indicate that the removal of aboveground biomass for biofuel production may need to be reconsidered.},
doi = {10.1128/mBio.00976-16},
journal = {mBio (Online)},
number = 5,
volume = 7,
place = {United States},
year = 2016,
month = 9
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
Publisher's Version of Record

Save / Share:
  • Aims The direct effects of atmospheric and climatic change factors atmospheric [CO2], air temperature, and changes in precipitation can shape plant community composition and alter ecosystem function, but it is essential to understand how these factors interact to make better predictions about how ecosystem may respond to change. We investigated the direct and interactive effects of [CO2], warming, and altered soil moisture in open-top chambers enclosing a constructed old-field community to test how the these factors shape plant communities. Materials and methods The experimental facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA made use of 4-m diameter open-top chambers and rain sheltersmore » to manipulate [CO2] (ambient, ambient + 300 ppm), air temperature (ambient, ambient + 3.5 C), and soil moisture (wet, dry). The plant communities within the chambers comprised seven common old-field species, including grasses, forbs, and legumes. We tracked foliar cover for each species and calculated community richness, evenness, and diversity from 2003-2005. Important findings This work resulted in three main results: 1) warming had species-specific effects on foliar cover that varied through time and were altered by soil moisture treatments; 2) [CO2] had little effect on individual species or the community; 3) diversity, evenness, and richness were influenced most by soil moisture, primarily reflecting the response of one dominant species. This experiment demonstrated that individualistic species responses to atmospheric and climatic change can alter community composition, and plant community response should be an important component of analyses of terrestrial ecosystem response. Prediction of plant community changes will remain difficult, however, given the occurrence of interactions between factors and the changes in response through time.« less
  • High-elevation ecosystems are predicted to be some of the terrestrial habitats most sensitive to changing climates. The ecological consequences of changes in alpine tundra environmental conditions are still unclear especially for habitats in Asia. In this study we report findings from a field experiment where an alpine tundra grassland on the Tibetan plateau (37{degrees}N, 101{degrees}E) was exposed to experimental warming, irradiance was lowered, and wind speed reduced to simulate a suite of potential changes in environmental conditions. Our warming treatment increased air temperatures by 5{degrees}C on average and soil temperatures were elevated by 3{degrees}C at 5 cm depth. Aboveground biomassmore » of grasses responded rapidly to the warmer conditions whereby biomass was 25% greater than that of controls after only 5 wk of experimental warming. This increase was accompanied by a simultaneous decrease in forb biomass, resulting in almost no net change in community biomass after 5 wk. Lower irradiance reduced grass biomass during the same period. Under ambient conditions total aboveground community biomass increased seasonally from 161 g m{sup -2} in July to a maximum of 351 g m{sup -2} in September, declining to 285 g m{sup -2} in October. However, under warmed conditions, peak community biomass was extended into October due in part to continued growth of grasses and the postponement of senescence. Our finding indicate that while alpine grasses respond favorably to altered conditions, others may not. And, while peak community biomass may actually change very little under warmer summers, the duration of peak biomass may be extended having feedback effects on net ecosystem CO{sub 2} balances, nutrient cycling, and forage availability. 47 refs., 3 figs., 3 tabs.« less