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Global Environmental Change
1, 2014, Pages: 349-354

Microbial Community-Level Responses to Warming and Altered Precipitation Patterns Determine Terrestrial Carbon-Climate Feedbacks

Matthew D. Wallenstein

Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, 80523, CO, USA.


Climate change will affect the biogeochemical processes driven by the complex microbial communities that inhabit soils. Microbial responses to climate change can result in both negative and positive feedbacks through soil decomposition and the release of CO2 and CH4 to the atmosphere. While the relationships between temperature and moisture with the rates of microbial processes are well known, it is possible that these relationships could change if microbial communities adapt to climate change. For example, the stimulation of soil respiration by experimental warming often declines after several years and has been attributed to thermal acclimation of microbial communities. Similarly, microbes could adapt to changes in precipitation regimes. Here, I review evidence for and against microbial adaptation, in relation to a framework for predicting when and where adaptation is most likely to affect climate-carbon feedbacks. While microbial community-level physiology can determine the rates of biogeochemical processes, there is much to learn before we can integrate these responses into a predictive framework.

Keywords: Climate change; Microbial ecology; Adaptation; Climate-carbon feedbacks; Biogeochemistry; Soil.

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