No consensus exists regarding soil organic carbon (SOC) lability and the temperature sensitivity of its decomposition. This lack of clear understanding limits the accuracy in predicting the long-term impacts of climate change on soil carbon (C) storage. In this study, we determined the temperature responses of labile and recalcitrant organic carbon (LOC vs. ROC) by comparing the time required to decompose a given amount of C at different incubation temperatures along an elevational gradient in the Wuyi Mountains in southeastern China. Results showed that the temperature sensitivity increased with increasing SOC recalcitrance (Q10-labile = 1.39 ± 0.04 vs. Q10-recalcitrant = 3.94 ± 0.30). Q10-labile and Q10-recalcitrant values significantly increased with increasing soil depth. The effect of elevational vegetation change was significant for Q10-recalcitrant but not for Q10-labile, though they increased along the elevational gradient. The response of ROC pools to changes in temperature would accelerate the soil-stored C losses in the Wuyi Mountains. Kinetic theory suggested that SOC decomposition was both temperature- and quality-dependent due to an increased temperature. This would promote more CO2 release from recalcitrant soil organic matter (SOM) in cold regions, resulting in a greater positive feedback to global climate change than previously expected. Moreover, the response of ROC to changes in temperature will determine the magnitude of the positive feedback due to its large storage in soils.
- Elevational gradient (vegetation)
- Soil organic carbon
- Temperature sensitivity
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Soil Science