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PLOS ONE
Vol.
8, No. 1, 2013; Pages: xxx - xxx

Temperature Sensitivity of Soil Organic Carbon Mineralization along an Elevation Gradient in the Wuyi Mountains, China

Guobing Wang, Yan Zhou, Xia Xu, Honghua Ruan, Jiashe Wang



Abstract

Soil organic carbon (SOC) actively participates in the global carbon (C) cycle. Despite much research, however, our understanding of the temperature sensitivity of soil organic carbon (SOC) mineralization is still very limited. To investigate the responses of SOC mineralization to temperature, we sampled surface soils (0–10 cm) from evergreen broad-leaf forest (EBF), coniferous forest (CF), sub-alpine dwarf forest (SDF), and alpine meadow (AM) along an elevational gradient in the Wuyi Mountains, China. The soil samples were incubated at 5, 15, 25, and 35°C with constant soil moisture for 360 days. The temperature sensitivity of SOC mineralization (Q10) was calculated by comparing the time needed to mineralize the same amount of C at any two adjacent incubation temperatures. Results showed that the rates of SOC mineralization and the cumulative SOC mineralized during the entire incubation significantly increased with increasing incubation temperatures across the four sites. With the increasing extent of SOC being mineralized (increasing incubation time), the Q10 values increased. Moreover, we found that both the elevational gradient and incubation temperature intervals significantly impacted Q10 values. Q10 values of the labile and recalcitrant organic C linearly increased with elevation. For the 5–15, 15–25, and 25–35°C intervals, surprisingly, the overall Q10 values for the labile C did not decrease as the recalcitrant C did. Generally, our results suggest that subtropical forest soils may release more carbon than expected in a warmer climate.

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