Plant community structure regulates responses of prairie soil respiration to decadal experimental warming

Xia Xu, Zheng Shi, Dejun Li, Xuhui Zhou, Rebecca A. Sherry, Yiqi Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations

Abstract

Soil respiration is recognized to be influenced by temperature, moisture, and ecosystem production. However, little is known about how plant community structure regulates responses of soil respiration to climate change. Here, we used a 13-year field warming experiment to explore the mechanisms underlying plant community regulation on feedbacks of soil respiration to climate change in a tallgrass prairie in Oklahoma, USA. Infrared heaters were used to elevate temperature about 2 °C since November 1999. Annual clipping was used to mimic hay harvest. Our results showed that experimental warming significantly increased soil respiration approximately from 10% in the first 7 years (2000-2006) to 30% in the next 6 years (2007-2012). The two-stage warming stimulation of soil respiration was closely related to warming-induced increases in ecosystem production over the years. Moreover, we found that across the 13 years, warming-induced increases in soil respiration were positively affected by the proportion of aboveground net primary production (ANPP) contributed by C3 forbs. Functional composition of the plant community regulated warming-induced increases in soil respiration through the quantity and quality of organic matter inputs to soil and the amount of photosynthetic carbon (C) allocated belowground. Clipping, the interaction of clipping with warming, and warming-induced changes in soil temperature and moisture all had little effect on soil respiration over the years (all P > 0.05). Our results suggest that climate warming may drive an increase in soil respiration through altering composition of plant communities in grassland ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3846-3853
Number of pages8
JournalGlobal change biology
Volume21
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Ecosystem production
  • Plant community composition
  • Soil respiration
  • Tallgrass prairie
  • Warming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science(all)

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