Temperature sensitivity patterns of carbon and nitrogen processes in decomposition of boreal organic soils – Quantification in different compounds and molecule sizes based on a multifactorial experiment

Ari Laurén, Mari Lappalainen, Antti-Jussi Kieloaho, Kristiina Karhu, Marjo Palviainen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Climate warming and organic matter decomposition are connected in a recursive manner; this recursion can be described by temperature sensitivity. We conducted a multifactorial laboratory experiment to quantify the temperature sensitivity of organic carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) decomposition processes of common boreal organic soils. We incubated 36 mor and 36 slightly decomposed Carex-Sphagnum peat samples in a constant moisture and ambient temperature for 6 months. The experiment included three temperature and two moisture levels and two food web manipulations (samples with and without fungivore enchytraeid worms). We determined the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in seven molecular size classes together with ammonium N and dissolved organic N in low molecular weight and high molecular weight fractions. The temperature sensitivity function Q10 was fit to the data. The C and N release rate was almost an order of magnitude higher in mor than in peat. Soil fauna increased the temperature sensitivity of C release. Soil fauna played a key role in N release; when fauna was absent in peat, the N release was ceased. The wide range of the studied C and N compounds and treatments (68 Q10 datasets) allowed us to recognize five different temperature sensitivity patterns. The most common pattern (37 out of 68) was a positive upwards temperature response, which was observed for CO2 and DOC release. A negative downward pattern was observed for extractable organic nitrogen and microbial C. Sixteen temperature sensitivity patterns represented a mixed type, where the Q10function was not applicable, as this does not allow changing the sign storage change rate with increasing or decreasing temperature. The mixed pattern was typically connected to intermediate decomposition products, where input and output fluxes with different temperature sensitivities may simultaneously change the storage. Mixed type was typical for N processes. Our results provide useful parameterization for ecosystem models that describe the feedback loop between climate warming, organic matter decomposition, and productivity of N-limited vegetation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0223446
JournalPLoS One
Issue number10
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
  • 4112 Forestry

Cite this