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

Title: Convergence of microbial assimilations of soil carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur in terrestrial ecosystems

Abstract

How soil microbes assimilate carbon-C, nitrogen-N, phosphorus-P, and sulfur-S is fundamental for understanding nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems. We compiled a global database of C, N, P, and S concentrations in soils and microbes and developed relationships between them by using a power function model. The C:N:P:S was estimated to be 287:17:1:0.8 for soils, and 42:6:1:0.4 for microbes. We found a convergence of the relationships between elements in soils and in soil microbial biomass across C, N, P, and S. The element concentrations in soil microbial biomass follow a homeostatic regulation curve with soil element concentrations across C, N, P and S, implying a unifying mechanism of microbial assimilating soil elements. This correlation explains the well-constrained C:N:P:S stoichiometry with a slightly larger variation in soils than in microbial biomass. Meanwhile, it is estimated that the minimum requirements of soil elements for soil microbes are 0.8 mmol C Kg–1 dry soil, 0.1 mmol N Kg–1 dry soil, 0.1 mmol P Kg–1 dry soil, and 0.1 mmol S Kg–1 dry soil, respectively. Lastly, these findings provide a mathematical explanation of element imbalance in soils and soil microbial biomass, and offer insights for incorporating microbial contribution to nutrient cycling into Earth system models.

Authors:
 [1];  [2];  [3];  [4];  [3];  [5]
  1. Univ. of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX (United States); Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States); San Diego State Univ., San Diego, CA (United States)
  2. Middle Tennessee State Univ., Nashville, TN (United States)
  3. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
  4. Univ. of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX (United States); Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
  5. Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing (China)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
OSTI Identifier:
1241459
Grant/Contract Number:  
AC05-00OR22725
Resource Type:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Scientific Reports
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 5; Journal Issue: 3; Journal ID: ISSN 2045-2322
Publisher:
Nature Publishing Group
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; biogeochemistry; ecosystem ecology

Citation Formats

Xu, Xiaofeng, Hui, Dafeng, King, Anthony Wayne, Song, Xia, Thornton, Peter E., and Zhang, Lihua. Convergence of microbial assimilations of soil carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur in terrestrial ecosystems. United States: N. p., 2015. Web. doi:10.1038/srep17445.
Xu, Xiaofeng, Hui, Dafeng, King, Anthony Wayne, Song, Xia, Thornton, Peter E., & Zhang, Lihua. Convergence of microbial assimilations of soil carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur in terrestrial ecosystems. United States. doi:10.1038/srep17445.
Xu, Xiaofeng, Hui, Dafeng, King, Anthony Wayne, Song, Xia, Thornton, Peter E., and Zhang, Lihua. Fri . "Convergence of microbial assimilations of soil carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur in terrestrial ecosystems". United States. doi:10.1038/srep17445. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1241459.
@article{osti_1241459,
title = {Convergence of microbial assimilations of soil carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur in terrestrial ecosystems},
author = {Xu, Xiaofeng and Hui, Dafeng and King, Anthony Wayne and Song, Xia and Thornton, Peter E. and Zhang, Lihua},
abstractNote = {How soil microbes assimilate carbon-C, nitrogen-N, phosphorus-P, and sulfur-S is fundamental for understanding nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems. We compiled a global database of C, N, P, and S concentrations in soils and microbes and developed relationships between them by using a power function model. The C:N:P:S was estimated to be 287:17:1:0.8 for soils, and 42:6:1:0.4 for microbes. We found a convergence of the relationships between elements in soils and in soil microbial biomass across C, N, P, and S. The element concentrations in soil microbial biomass follow a homeostatic regulation curve with soil element concentrations across C, N, P and S, implying a unifying mechanism of microbial assimilating soil elements. This correlation explains the well-constrained C:N:P:S stoichiometry with a slightly larger variation in soils than in microbial biomass. Meanwhile, it is estimated that the minimum requirements of soil elements for soil microbes are 0.8 mmol C Kg–1 dry soil, 0.1 mmol N Kg–1 dry soil, 0.1 mmol P Kg–1 dry soil, and 0.1 mmol S Kg–1 dry soil, respectively. Lastly, these findings provide a mathematical explanation of element imbalance in soils and soil microbial biomass, and offer insights for incorporating microbial contribution to nutrient cycling into Earth system models.},
doi = {10.1038/srep17445},
journal = {Scientific Reports},
number = 3,
volume = 5,
place = {United States},
year = {2015},
month = {11}
}

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

Citation Metrics:
Cited by: 2 works
Citation information provided by
Web of Science

Save / Share:

Works referenced in this record:

A global analysis of soil microbial biomass carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus in terrestrial ecosystems: Global soil microbial biomass C, N and P
journal, December 2012

  • Xu, Xiaofeng; Thornton, Peter E.; Post, Wilfred M.
  • Global Ecology and Biogeography, Vol. 22, Issue 6
  • DOI: 10.1111/geb.12029

Microorganisms and climate change: terrestrial feedbacks and mitigation options
journal, October 2010

  • Singh, Brajesh K.; Bardgett, Richard D.; Smith, Pete
  • Nature Reviews Microbiology, Vol. 8, Issue 11
  • DOI: 10.1038/nrmicro2439

Stoichiometric homeostasis of vascular plants in the Inner Mongolia grassland
journal, January 2011


Optimal nitrogen-to-phosphorus stoichiometry of phytoplankton
journal, May 2004

  • Klausmeier, Christopher A.; Litchman, Elena; Daufresne, Tanguy
  • Nature, Vol. 429, Issue 6988
  • DOI: 10.1038/nature02454

Control of CNP homeostasis in herbivore consumers through differential assimilation
journal, July 2004


To be or not to be what you eat: regulation of stoichiometric homeostasis among autotrophs and heterotrophs
journal, April 2010


Scaling of C:N:P Stoichiometry in Forests Worldwide: Implications of Terrestrial Redfield-Type Ratios
journal, September 2004

  • McGroddy, Megan E.; Daufresne, Tanguy; Hedin, Lars O.
  • Ecology, Vol. 85, Issue 9
  • DOI: 10.1890/03-0351

C:N:P stoichiometry in soil: is there a “Redfield ratio” for the microbial biomass?
journal, July 2007


Substrate and environmental controls on microbial assimilation of soil organic carbon: a framework for Earth system models
journal, February 2014

  • Xu, Xiaofeng; Schimel, Joshua P.; Thornton, Peter E.
  • Ecology Letters, Vol. 17, Issue 5
  • DOI: 10.1111/ele.12254

Scale-dependent carbon:nitrogen:phosphorus seston stoichiometry in marine and freshwaters
journal, May 2008

  • Sterner, Robert W.; Andersen, Tom; Elser, James J.
  • Limnology and Oceanography, Vol. 53, Issue 3
  • DOI: 10.4319/lo.2008.53.3.1169

Drought enhances folivory by shifting foliar metabolomes in Quercus ilex trees
journal, January 2014

  • Rivas-Ubach, Albert; Gargallo-Garriga, Albert; Sardans, Jordi
  • New Phytologist, Vol. 202, Issue 3
  • DOI: 10.1111/nph.12687

Stable soil organic matter: A comparison of C:N:P:S ratios in Australian and other world soils
journal, July 2011


Ratios of microbial biomass carbon to total organic carbon in arable soils
journal, January 1989


Phosphorus in the soil microbial biomass
journal, January 1984


Beyond macronutrients: element variability and multielement stoichiometry in freshwater invertebrates
journal, December 2006


Regulation of gross growth efficiency and ammonium regeneration in bacteria by substrate C: N ratio1: Ammonium regeneration by bacteria
journal, November 1987

  • Goldman, Joel C.; Caron, David A.; Dennett, Mark R.
  • Limnology and Oceanography, Vol. 32, Issue 6
  • DOI: 10.4319/lo.1987.32.6.1239

Microbial control over carbon cycling in soil
journal, January 2012


Measuring soil microbial biomass using an automated procedure
journal, May 2011


Soil microbial biomass: The eco-physiological approach
journal, December 2010


The Global Stoichiometry of Litter Nitrogen Mineralization
journal, August 2008


A microbial functional group-based module for simulating methane production and consumption: Application to an incubated permafrost soil: A MICROBIAL FUNCTIONAL GROUP-BASED METHANE MODULE
journal, July 2015

  • Xu, Xiaofeng; Elias, Dwayne A.; Graham, David E.
  • Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, Vol. 120, Issue 7
  • DOI: 10.1002/2015JG002935