Microbial carbon limitation ‐ the need for integrating microorganisms into our understanding of ecosystem carbon cycling

Soong, J.L., Fuchslueger, L., Marañon‐Jimenez, S., Torn, M.S., Janssens, I.A., Penuelas, J., & Richter, A. (2020). Microbial carbon limitation ‐ the need for integrating microorganisms into our understanding of ecosystem carbon cycling. Global Change Biology 26 (4) 1953-1961. 10.1111/gcb.14962.

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Numerous studies have demonstrated that fertilization with nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium increase plant productivity in both natural and managed ecosystems, demonstrating that primary productivity is nutrient limited in most terrestrial ecosystems. In contrast, it has been demonstrated that heterotrophic microbial communities in soil are primarily limited by organic carbon or energy. While this concept of contrasting limitations, i.e., microbial carbon and plant nutrient limitation, is based on strong evidence that we review in this paper, it is often ignored in discussions of ecosystem response to global environment changes. The plant-centric perspective has equated plant-nutrient limitations with those of whole ecosystems, thereby ignoring the important role of the heterotrophs responsible for soil decomposition in driving ecosystem carbon storage. In order to truly integrate carbon and nutrient cycles in ecosystem science, we must account for the fact that while plant productivity may be nutrient- limited, the secondary productivity by heterotrophic communities is inherently carbon-limited. Ecosystem carbon cycling integrates the independent physiological responses of its individual components, as well as tightly coupled exchanges between autotrophs and heterotrophs. To the extent that the interacting autotrophic and heterotrophic processes are controlled by organisms that are limited by nutrient versus carbon accessibility, respectively, we propose that ecosystems by definition cannot be 'limited' by nutrients or carbon alone. Here, we outline how models aimed at predicting non-steady state ecosystem responses over time can benefit from dissecting ecosystems into the organismal components and their inherent limitations to better represent plant-microbe interactions in coupled carbon and nutrient models.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: carbon; decomposition; ecosystem; limitation; microbial carbon limitation; nutrients; plants; soil; soil microorganisms; stoichiometry
Research Programs: Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2019 08:00
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:32
URI: https://pure.iiasa.ac.at/16234

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