Microbial necromass carbon and nitrogen persistence are decoupled in agricultural grassland soils

Buckeridge, Kate M.; Mason, Kelly E. ORCID:; Ostle, Nick; McNamara, Niall P. ORCID:; Grant, Helen K.; Whitaker, Jeanette ORCID: 2022 Microbial necromass carbon and nitrogen persistence are decoupled in agricultural grassland soils. Communications Earth & Environment, 3, 114. 10, pp.

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Microbial necromass is an important component of soil organic matter, however its persistence and contribution to soil carbon sequestration are poorly quantified. Here, we investigate the interaction of necromass with soil minerals and compare its persistence to that of plant litter in grassland soils under low- and high-management intensity in northwest England. During a 1-year laboratory-based incubation, we find carbon mineralization rates are higher for plant leaf litter than root litter and necromass, but find no significant difference in carbon persistence after 1 year. During a field experiment, approximately two thirds of isotopically-labelled necromass carbon became mineral-associated within 3 days. Mineral-associated carbon declined more rapidly than nitrogen over 8 months, with the persistence of both enhanced under increased management intensity. We suggest that carbon mineralisation rates are decoupled from carbon persistence and that necromass carbon is less persistent than necromass nitrogen, with agricultural management intensity impacting carbon sequestration in grasslands.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Pollution (Science Area 2017-)
Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 2662-4435
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: carbon cycle, element cycles, soil microbiology
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Agriculture and Soil Science
Date made live: 20 Jul 2022 11:45 +0 (UTC)

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