Differential responses of carbon-degrading enzyme activities to warming: Implications for soil respiration

Ji Chen, Yiqi Luo, Pablo García-Palacios, Junji Cao, Marina Dacal, Xuhui Zhou, Jianwei Li, Jianyang Xia, Shuli Niu, Huiyi Yang, Shelby Shelton, Wei Guo, Kees Jan van Groenigen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


Extracellular enzymes catalyze rate-limiting steps in soil organic matter decomposition, and their activities (EEAs) play a key role in determining soil respiration (SR). Both EEAs and SR are highly sensitive to temperature, but their responses to climate warming remain poorly understood. Here, we present a meta-analysis on the response of soil cellulase and ligninase activities and SR to warming, synthesizing data from 56 studies. We found that warming significantly enhanced ligninase activity by 21.4% but had no effect on cellulase activity. Increases in ligninase activity were positively correlated with changes in SR, while no such relationship was found for cellulase. The warming response of ligninase activity was more closely related to the responses of SR than a wide range of environmental and experimental methodological factors. Furthermore, warming effects on ligninase activity increased with experiment duration. These results suggest that soil microorganisms sustain long-term increases in SR with warming by gradually increasing the degradation of the recalcitrant carbon pool.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4816-4826
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2018


  • cellulase activity
  • decomposition
  • extracellular enzyme activity
  • global warming
  • ligninase activity
  • recalcitrant carbon pool
  • soil microorganisms
  • soil respiration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • General Environmental Science


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