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Title: A test of the hierarchical model of litter decomposition

Abstract

Our basic understanding of plant litter decomposition informs the assumptions underlying widely applied soil biogeochemical models, including those embedded in Earth system models. Confidence in projected carbon cycle–climate feedbacks therefore depends on accurate knowledge about the controls regulating the rate at which plant biomass is decomposed into products such as CO2. Here we test underlying assumptions of the dominant conceptual model of litter decomposition. The model posits that a primary control on the rate of decomposition at regional to global scales is climate (temperature and moisture), with the con- trolling effects of decomposers negligible at such broad spatial scales. Using a regional-scale litter decomposition experiment at six sites spanning from northern Sweden to southern France—and capturing both within and among site variation in putative controls—we find that contrary to predictions from the hierarchical model, decomposer (microbial) biomass strongly regulates decomposition at regional scales. Furthermore, the size of the microbial biomass dictates the absolute change in decomposition rates with changing climate variables. Our findings suggest the need for revision of the hierarchical model, with decomposers acting as both local- and broad-scale controls on litter decomposition rates, necessitating their explicit consideration in global biogeochemical models.

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [2];  [3];  [2]; ORCiD logo [4];  [5];  [6]; ORCiD logo [7];  [8]; ORCiD logo [9];  [2];  [10];  [11];  [5];  [12];  [13]; ORCiD logo [14];  [15];  [16]
  1. Yale Univ., New Haven, CT (United States); Netherlands Inst. of Ecology, Wageningen, (Netherlands)
  2. Netherlands Inst. of Ecology, Wageningen, (Netherlands)
  3. Univ. of Rennes 1, Rennes Cedex (France)
  4. Univ. of Vermont, Burlington, VT (United States); Univ. of Copenhagen, Copenhagen (Denmark)
  5. Vrije Univ., Amsterdam (Netherlands)
  6. Federal Inst. of Technology, Zurich (Switzerland)
  7. Univ. of Manchester, Manchester (United Kingdom)
  8. Univ. Montpellier, Montpellier (France)
  9. Umeå Univ., Umeå (Sweden)
  10. Yale Univ., New Haven, CT (United States)
  11. Univ. of Vermont, Burlington, VT (United States); Copenhagen Univ., Copenhagen (Denmark)
  12. Swedish Univ. of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, (Sweden).
  13. Umeå Univ., Umeå (Sweden); Nanyang Technological Univ., Singapore (Singapore)
  14. National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO (United States)
  15. The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA (United States)
  16. Netherlands Inst. of Ecology, Wageningen, (Netherlands); Wageningen Univ., Wageningen (Netherlands)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
1501394
Grant/Contract Number:  
SC0010562
Resource Type:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Nature Ecology and Evolution
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 1; Journal Issue: 12; Journal ID: ISSN 2397-334X
Publisher:
Nature Publishing Group
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES

Citation Formats

Bradford, Mark A., Veen, G. F., Bonis, Anne, Bradford, Ella M., Classen, Aimee T., Cornelissen, J. Hans C., Crowther, Thomas. W., De Long, Jonathan R., Freschet, Gregoire T., Kardol, Paul, Manrubia-Freixa, Marta, Maynard, Daniel S., Newman, Gregory S., Logtestijn, Richard S. P., Viketoft, Maria, Wardle, David A., Wieder, William R., Wood, Stephen A., and van der Putten, Wim H. A test of the hierarchical model of litter decomposition. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0367-4.
Bradford, Mark A., Veen, G. F., Bonis, Anne, Bradford, Ella M., Classen, Aimee T., Cornelissen, J. Hans C., Crowther, Thomas. W., De Long, Jonathan R., Freschet, Gregoire T., Kardol, Paul, Manrubia-Freixa, Marta, Maynard, Daniel S., Newman, Gregory S., Logtestijn, Richard S. P., Viketoft, Maria, Wardle, David A., Wieder, William R., Wood, Stephen A., & van der Putten, Wim H. A test of the hierarchical model of litter decomposition. United States. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0367-4
Bradford, Mark A., Veen, G. F., Bonis, Anne, Bradford, Ella M., Classen, Aimee T., Cornelissen, J. Hans C., Crowther, Thomas. W., De Long, Jonathan R., Freschet, Gregoire T., Kardol, Paul, Manrubia-Freixa, Marta, Maynard, Daniel S., Newman, Gregory S., Logtestijn, Richard S. P., Viketoft, Maria, Wardle, David A., Wieder, William R., Wood, Stephen A., and van der Putten, Wim H. Mon . "A test of the hierarchical model of litter decomposition". United States. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0367-4. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1501394.
@article{osti_1501394,
title = {A test of the hierarchical model of litter decomposition},
author = {Bradford, Mark A. and Veen, G. F. and Bonis, Anne and Bradford, Ella M. and Classen, Aimee T. and Cornelissen, J. Hans C. and Crowther, Thomas. W. and De Long, Jonathan R. and Freschet, Gregoire T. and Kardol, Paul and Manrubia-Freixa, Marta and Maynard, Daniel S. and Newman, Gregory S. and Logtestijn, Richard S. P. and Viketoft, Maria and Wardle, David A. and Wieder, William R. and Wood, Stephen A. and van der Putten, Wim H.},
abstractNote = {Our basic understanding of plant litter decomposition informs the assumptions underlying widely applied soil biogeochemical models, including those embedded in Earth system models. Confidence in projected carbon cycle–climate feedbacks therefore depends on accurate knowledge about the controls regulating the rate at which plant biomass is decomposed into products such as CO2. Here we test underlying assumptions of the dominant conceptual model of litter decomposition. The model posits that a primary control on the rate of decomposition at regional to global scales is climate (temperature and moisture), with the con- trolling effects of decomposers negligible at such broad spatial scales. Using a regional-scale litter decomposition experiment at six sites spanning from northern Sweden to southern France—and capturing both within and among site variation in putative controls—we find that contrary to predictions from the hierarchical model, decomposer (microbial) biomass strongly regulates decomposition at regional scales. Furthermore, the size of the microbial biomass dictates the absolute change in decomposition rates with changing climate variables. Our findings suggest the need for revision of the hierarchical model, with decomposers acting as both local- and broad-scale controls on litter decomposition rates, necessitating their explicit consideration in global biogeochemical models.},
doi = {10.1038/s41559-017-0367-4},
journal = {Nature Ecology and Evolution},
number = 12,
volume = 1,
place = {United States},
year = {2017},
month = {11}
}

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