Regulatory mechanisms of soil respiratory carbon (C) release induced by substrates (i.e., plant derived substrates) are critical for predicting ecosystem responses to climate change, but the mechanisms are not well understood. In this study, we sampled soils from a long-term field manipulative experiment and conducted a laboratory incubation to explore the role of substrate supply in regulating the differences in soil C release among the experimental treatments, including control, warming, clipping, and warming plus clipping. Three types of substrates (glucose, C3 and C4 plant materials) were added with an amount equal to 1% of soil dry weight under the four treatments. We found that the addition of all three substrates significantly stimulated soil respiratory C release in all four warming and clipping treatments. In soils without substrate addition, warming significantly stimulated soil C release but clipping decreased it. However, additions of glucose and C3 plant materials (C3 addition) offset the warming effects, whereas C4 addition still showed the warming-induced stimulation of soil C release. Our results suggest that long-term warming may inhibit microbial capacity for decomposition of C3 litter but may enhance it for decomposition of C4 litter. Such warming-induced adaptation of microbial communities may weaken the positive Ccycle feedback to warming due to increased proportion of C4 species in plant community and decreased litter quality. In contrast, clipping may weaken microbial capacity for warming-induced decomposition of C4 litter but may enhance it for C3 litter. Warming- and clipping-induced shifts in microbial metabolic capacity may be strongly associated with changes in plant species composition and could substantially influence soil C dynamics in response to global change.
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