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Soil Biology and Biochemistry
Vol. 115, 2017, Pages: 1-10

Differential responses of soil microbial biomass and carbon-degrading enzyme activities to altered precipitation

Chengjie Ren, Fazhu Zhao, Zheng Shi, Ji Chen, Xinhui Han, Gaihe Yang, Yongzhong Feng, Guangxin Ren

College of Agronomy, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, 712100 Shaanxi, China.


Altered precipitation regimes have a great impact on global climate change, with potentially important effects on below-ground carbon dynamics. Soil microbes and carbon (C)-degrading extracellular enzymes activities (EEAs) are considered as the rate-limiting step in C decomposition. However, the effect of altered precipitation on the microbial biomass, microbial EEAs, and mechanism for soil C dynamics has not been established. In current study, we synthesized the responses of microbial biomass, C-degrading EEAs, soil organic carbon (SOC), dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and soil respiration (SR) to altered precipitation from 70 published studies. The results showed that increased precipitation significantly enhanced soil microbial biomass and oxidative C-degrading EEAs (Ox-EEAs) by 16.18% and 6.58%, respectively, but had no effects on hydrolytic C-degrading EEAs (Hy-EEAs). Decreased precipitation led to a significant decline of soil microbial biomass and Ox-EEAs by 11.61% and 10.99%, respectively; however, Hy-EEAs increased by 25.79%. Furthermore, increased precipitation stimulated soil microbial biomass in shrub and grassland but had no effects in forest, while decreased precipitation repressed soil microbial biomass but increased Hy-EEAs in forest. The response ratios (RRs) of microbial biomass to altered precipitation were negatively correlated with the mean annual precipitation (MAP) and mean annual temperature (MAT); however, the RRs of Hy-EEAs were positively correlated with MAP. Particularly, in low MAP (≤600 mm), increased precipitation significantly increased soil microbial biomass by 21.40% but decreased precipitation did not affect soil microbial biomass; In contrast, in high MAP (>600 mm), decreased precipitation significantly declined soil microbial biomass by 15.37%, and significantly increased Hy-EEAs by 29.31% but increased precipitation did not affect both of them. Moreover, the RRs of microbial biomass and Ox-EEAs were significantly correlated with SOC, DOC, and SR; however, we only observed a negative relationship between RRs of Hy-EEAs and RRs of SOC, suggesting the concurrent responses of microbial biomass and C-degrading EEAs for below-ground C dynamics under simulated precipitation changes, and that a large amount of recalcitrant C in the soils would be highly susceptible to changing precipitation.

Keywords: Microbial biomass, Extracellular enzyme, Below-ground carbon dynamics, Altered precipitation, Meta-analysis.

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