Warming-induced permafrost thaw exacerbates tundra soil carbon decomposition mediated by microbial community

Jiajie Feng, Cong Wang, Jiesi Lei, Yunfeng Yang, Qingyun Yan, Xishu Zhou, Xuanyu Tao, Daliang Ning, Mengting M. Yuan, Yujia Qin, Zhou J. Shi, Xue Guo, Zhili He, Joy D. Van Nostrand, Liyou Wu, Rosvel G. Bracho-Garillo, C. Ryan Penton, James R. Cole, Konstantinos T. Konstantinidis, Yiqi LuoEdward A.G. Schuur, James M. Tiedje, Jizhong Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Background: It is well-known that global warming has effects on high-latitude tundra underlain with permafrost. This leads to a severe concern that decomposition of soil organic carbon (SOC) previously stored in this region, which accounts for about 50% of the world's SOC storage, will cause positive feedback that accelerates climate warming. We have previously shown that short-term warming (1.5 years) stimulates rapid, microbe-mediated decomposition of tundra soil carbon without affecting the composition of the soil microbial community (based on the depth of 42684 sequence reads of 16S rRNA gene amplicons per 3 g of soil sample). Results: We show that longer-term (5 years) experimental winter warming at the same site altered microbial communities (p < 0.040). Thaw depth correlated the strongest with community assembly and interaction networks, implying that warming-accelerated tundra thaw fundamentally restructured the microbial communities. Both carbon decomposition and methanogenesis genes increased in relative abundance under warming, and their functional structures strongly correlated (R 2 > 0.725, p < 0.001) with ecosystem respiration or CH4 flux. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that microbial responses associated with carbon cycling could lead to positive feedbacks that accelerate SOC decomposition in tundra regions, which is alarming because SOC loss is unlikely to subside owing to changes in microbial community composition. [MediaObject not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 17 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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