Climate change is exposing high-latitude systems to warming and a shift towards more shrub-dominated plant communities, resulting in increased leaf-litter inputs at the soil surface, and more labile root-derived organic matter (OM) input in the soil profile. Labile OM can stimulate the mineralization of soil organic matter (SOM); a phenomenon termed “priming.” In N-poor subarctic soils, it is hypothesized that microorganisms may “prime” SOM in order to acquire N (microbial N-mining). Increased leaf-litter inputs with a high C/N ratio might further exacerbate microbial N demand, and increase the susceptibility of N-poor soils to N-mining. We investigated the N-control of SOM mineralization by amending soils from climate change–simulation treatments in the subarctic (+1.1°C warming, birch litter addition, willow litter addition, and fungal sporocarp addition) with labile OM either in the form of glucose (labile C; equivalent to 400 µg C/g fresh [fwt] soil) or alanine (labile C + N; equivalent to 400 µg C and 157 µg N/g fwt soil), to simulate rhizosphere inputs. Surprisingly, we found that despite 5 yr of simulated climate change treatments, there were no significant effects of the field-treatments on microbial process rates, community structure or responses to labile OM. Glucose primed the mineralization of both C and N from SOM, but gross mineralization of N was stimulated more than that of C, suggesting that microbial SOM use increased in magnitude and shifted to components richer in N (i.e., selective microbial N-mining). The addition of alanine also resulted in priming of both C and N mineralization, but the N mineralization stimulated by alanine was greater than that stimulated by glucose, indicating strong N-mining even when a source of labile OM including N was supplied. Microbial carbon use efficiency was reduced in response to both labile OM inputs. Overall, these findings suggest that shrub expansion could fundamentally alter biogeochemical cycling in the subarctic, yielding more N available for plant uptake in these N-limited soils, thus driving positive plant–soil feedbacks.
- Miljö- och naturvårdsvetenskap