Long-term elevated precipitation induces grassland soil carbon loss via microbe-plant–soil interplay

Mengmeng Wang, Xin Sun, Baichuan Cao, Nona R. Chiariello, Kathryn M. Docherty, Christopher B. Field, Qun Gao, Jessica L.M. Gutknecht, Xue Guo, Genhe He, Bruce A. Hungate, Jiesi Lei, Audrey Niboyet, Xavier Le Roux, Zhou Shi, Wensheng Shu, Mengting Yuan, Jizhong Zhou, Yunfeng Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Global climate models predict that the frequency and intensity of precipitation events will increase in many regions across the world. However, the biosphere-climate feedback to elevated precipitation (eP) remains elusive. Here, we report a study on one of the longest field experiments assessing the effects of eP, alone or in combination with other climate change drivers such as elevated CO2 (eCO2), warming and nitrogen deposition. Soil total carbon (C) decreased after a decade of eP treatment, while plant root production decreased after 2 years. To explain this asynchrony, we found that the relative abundances of fungal genes associated with chitin and protein degradation increased and were positively correlated with bacteriophage genes, suggesting a potential viral shunt in C degradation. In addition, eP increased the relative abundances of microbial stress tolerance genes, which are essential for coping with environmental stressors. Microbial responses to eP were phylogenetically conserved. The effects of eP on soil total C, root production, and microbes were interactively affected by eCO2. Collectively, we demonstrate that long-term eP induces soil C loss, owing to changes in microbial community composition, functional traits, root production, and soil moisture. Our study unveils an important, previously unknown biosphere-climate feedback in Mediterranean-type water-limited ecosystems, namely how eP induces soil C loss via microbe-plant–soil interplay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5429-5444
Number of pages16
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • elevated precipitation
  • microbial functional trait
  • resource acquisition
  • soil carbon loss
  • viral shunt
  • water-limited ecosystems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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