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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Grassland, Soil and Water Research Laboratory

Title: Soil microbial responses to a subambient to elevated gradient of atmospheric CO2

item Kelley, Alexia
item Procter, Andrew
item Gill, Richard
item Fay, Philip
item Polley, Wayne
item Jackson, Robert

Submitted to: Ecological Society of America Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/28/2010
Publication Date: 12/31/2010
Citation: Kelley, A.M., Procter, A.C., Gill, R.A., Fay, P.A., Polley, H.W., Jackson, R.B. 2010. Soil microbial responses to a subambient to elevated gradient of atmospheric CO2. In: Proceedings of the Ecological Society of America, August 1-6, 2010, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 2010 CDROM.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Increasing atmospheric CO2 has been shown to significantly affect terrestrial ecosystems through increased primary production. This response is thought to be mitigated by changes to the soil microbial community, which can alter nutrient availability in these systems. In this study we examine the effects of a unique field gradient of atmospheric CO2, ranging from 250 ppm to 500 ppm, on soil microbial communities and function in a model grassland system. Within this experimental set-up there are three distinct soils from the following three series: two silty-clay soils, Austin (mollisol) and Houston (vertisol), and a sandy loam, Bastrop (alfisol). Each of these plots was planted with identical grassland communities. To assess how microbial function and communities differed in response to changing atmospheric CO2, we measured extracellular enzyme activity of several enzymes associated with biogeochemical function, as well as fungal-to-bacteria ratios with qPCR, in 2 soil types at several points along the CO2 gradient. These measurements in combination with studies of soil respiration and organic matter decomposition provide insight into how this ecosystem responds to changing CO2 concentrations. A variety of processes within our model ecosystem respond to the CO2 gradient. Soil respiration tends to increase with CO2 concentration, although the response varies by soil type. To understand the role the microbes have in this response, we found that in some soils, the microbial community shifted towards a higher fungi:bacteria ratio. Microbially-produced enzymes also responded to increase CO2 concentration, with decreased cellulase and glucosidase activity, and decreases increased chitinase activity, indicating a shift in the function of the microbial community responses to changing CO2 concentrations. These data demonstrate that changes in CO2 concentrations affect the entire ecosystem, including microbial nutrient cycling.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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