Climate warming and soil carbon in tropical forests: insights from an elevation gradient in the Peruvian Andes

Nottingham, Andrew T.; Whitaker, Jeanette ORCID:; Turner, Benjamin L.; Salinas, Norma; Zimmerman, Michael; Malhi, Yadvinder; Meir, Patrick. 2015 Climate warming and soil carbon in tropical forests: insights from an elevation gradient in the Peruvian Andes. BioScience, 65 (9). 906-921.

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The temperature sensitivity of soil organic matter (SOM) decomposition in tropical forests will influence future climate. Studies of a 3.5-kilometer elevation gradient in the Peruvian Andes, including short-term translocation experiments and the examination of the long-term adaptation of biota to local thermal and edaphic conditions, have revealed several factors that may regulate this sensitivity. Collectively this work suggests that, in the absence of a moisture constraint, the temperature sensitivity of decomposition is regulated by the chemical composition of plant debris (litter) and both the physical and chemical composition of preexisting SOM: higher temperature sensitivities are found in litter or SOM that is more chemically complex and in SOM that is less occluded within aggregates. In addition, the temperature sensitivity of SOM in tropical montane forests may be larger than previously recognized because of the presence of “cold-adapted” and nitrogen-limited microbial decomposers and the possible future alterations in plant and microbial communities associated with warming. Studies along elevation transects, such as those reviewed here, can reveal factors that will regulate the temperature sensitivity of SOM. They can also complement and guide in situ soil-warming experiments, which will be needed to understand how this vulnerability to temperature may be mediated by altered plant productivity under future climatic change.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Shore
ISSN: 0006-3568
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: decomposition, temperature sensitivity, tropical lowland forest, tropical montane forest, soil microorganisms, soil organic matter
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Agriculture and Soil Science
Biology and Microbiology
Date made live: 15 Sep 2015 13:30 +0 (UTC)

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