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ARS Home » Plains Area » Temple, Texas » Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #237774

Title: Soil moisture regime and soil type affect the decomposition of graminoid litter grown under three levels of atmospheric CO2

item Jin, Virginia
item Haney, Richard
item Fay, Philip
item Polley, Herbert

Submitted to: Ecological Society of America Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/15/2009
Publication Date: 8/2/2009
Citation: Jin, V.L., Haney, R.L., Fay, P.A., Polley, H.W. 2009. Soil moisture regime and soil type affect the decomposition of graminoid litter grown under three levels of atmospheric CO2. In: Proceedings of the Ecological Society of America, August 2-7, 2009, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 2009 CDROM.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Increases in atmospheric CO2 can augment the quantity and change the quality of plant carbon (C) inputs into grassland soils. Soil moisture interacts with substrate characteristics and soil properties to affect decomposition and transfer of plant-derived C into soil organic matter (SOM). Thus, predicted changes in precipitation regime coupled with changes in plant C inputs due to increasing atmospheric CO2 could impact long-term C storage in grassland soils. To examine the interactions between litter quality, soil properties, and soil moisture availability on grassland litter decomposition, we incubated 4 levels of litter additions (no litter, or litter from Bouteloua curtipendula grown under 280, 380, or 550 µL L-1 CO2) on 3 contrasting Blackland Prairie soils (Austin, Bastrop, Houston soil series) in a full factorial experiment using 5 levels of dry-rewet frequency (0x, 1x, 2x, 4x, or 8x over 112 days) and 4 levels of soil moisture (10%, 25%, 35%, 50% of water holding capacity). Cumulative CO2 production (µg C g-1 dry soil) over the 112 day incubation period was measured and compared with initial litter C-to-N ratios (C:N). Carbon mineralization from soil+litter (total Cmin) was significantly affected by the four-way interaction between litter, soil type, dry-rewet frequency, and soil moisture treatments (P < 0.0001). Cumulative CO2 production was affected most strongly by soil type, then by soil moisture level, litter type, and dry-rewet frequency, respectively. Total Cmin was lowest in the sandy Bastrop soils and increased for Austin and Houston black clays. Total Cmin also increased significantly with increases in soil moisture level and dry-rewet frequency. Mineralization of litter C only (i.e. cumulative CO2 from soil+litter – cumulative CO2 from soil only) tended to decrease in all soils for litter grown at 380 or 550 µL L-1 CO2 compared to 280 µL L-1 CO2, particularly in the wettest soils (50% WHC). Initial C:N ratios in litter were significantly different between all CO2 treatments, increasing with growth CO2 concentration (63, 74, 81, respectively). Decreasing N availability from litter with higher C:N may have limited microbial mineralization of litter C. Thus, greater litter inputs from enhanced plant productivity under increasing atmospheric CO2 and a longer retention time of plant-derived C due to reduced decomposition might contribute to C sequestration in grassland soils. Potential changes in grassland soil C storage, however, will be controlled by the timing and amount of precipitation, which are predicted to change over the 21st century.