Schmitt, A; Glaser, B: Organic matter dynamics in a temperate forest soil following enhanced drying, Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 43, 478-489 (2011), doi:10.1016/j.soilbio.2010.09.037
Climate models predict an increase in global surface temperature and a change in precipitation intensity during this century. For Europe, extended drought periods followed by heavy rainfall are expected. The consequences for soil organic matter (SOM) dynamics are poorly understood. In this study, we investigated the effect of changing soil moisture regime on SOM quality under field conditions. For this purpose, a throughfall exclusion (TE) experiment was conducted in the summers 2006 and 2007 on a Haplic Podzol under a 140 years old Norway spruce stand using a roof installation followed by re-wetting compared to non-manipulated control plots. Total organic carbon, lignin (stable carbon pool), plant and microbial sugars (labile carbon pool) and microbial biomass (phospholipid fatty acids) were determined before, during and after the experiment in the L, O, A and B horizons. No significant treatment effects could be observed for SOM quantity. Amounts of lignin and soil microbial biomass were also not affected by the moisture regime but structure of soil microbial community. In the L and organic layers, gram + bacteria and actinomycetes were reduced during water stress, while gram- bacteria, fungi and protozoa increased during drought. Warmer and drier weather led to a dominance of fungi while a cooler and moister regime favoured bacteria, at least in the L horizon. An increasing PLFA (cy17:0 + cy19:0)/(16:1ω7c + 18:1ω7c) ratio in the O layer and A horizon suggests that the microbes suffered from water stress in these horizons. This agrees with a decreasing contribution of microbial sugars to SOM with decreasing water content in the O and A horizons. Although the original plant material exhibited increasing plant sugar content with increasing dryness, the contribution of the plant sugars to total soil organic carbon (SOC) generally decreased with decreasing water content. Physical-chemical changes of soil structure can theoretically change the sugar extractability from soils and/or chemical changes of sugars structure can probably affect the analysis. Therefore, chemical alteration and stabilization could be responsible for sugar decrease in soil with increasing dryness explaining the contrast compared to the original plant material. Keywords: Climate change; Disturbance; Soil organic matter; Biomarker; Lignin; Sugar; Microbial community; Phospholipid fatty acid; Drought
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