Climate and geology overwrite land use effects on soil organic nitrogen cycling on a continental scale

Noll, L., Zhang, S., Zheng, Q., Hu, Y., Hofhansl, F. ORCID:, & Wanek, W. (2022). Climate and geology overwrite land use effects on soil organic nitrogen cycling on a continental scale. Biogeosciences 19 (23) 5419-5433. 10.5194/bg-2022-41.

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Soil fertility and plant productivity are globally constrained by N availability. Proteins are the largest N reservoir in soils and the cleavage of proteins into small peptides and amino acids has been shown to be the rate limiting step in the terrestrial N cycle. However, we are still lacking a profound understanding of the environmental controls of this process. Here we show that integrated effects of climate and soil geochemistry drive protein cleavage across large scales. We measured gross protein depolymerization rates in mineral and organic soils sampled across a 4000-km-long European transect covering a wide range of climates, geologies and land uses. Based on structural equation models we identified that soil organic N cycling was strongly controlled by substrate availability e.g. by soil protein content. Soil geochemistry was a secondary predictor by controlling protein stabilization mechanisms and protein availability. Precipitation was identified as the main climatic control on protein depolymerization by affecting soil weathering and soil organic matter accumulation. In contrast, land use was a poor predictor of protein depolymerization. Our results highlight the need to consider geology and precipitation effects on soil geochemistry when estimating and predicting soil N cycling at large scales.

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR)
Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR) > Agriculture, Forestry, and Ecosystem Services (AFE)
Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR) > Biodiversity, Ecology, and Conservation (BEC)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 22 Feb 2022 13:33
Last Modified: 05 Dec 2022 13:26

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