Microbial life-history strategies mediate microbial carbon pump efficacy in response to N management depending on stoichiometry of microbial demand

Liyang Yang, Alberto Canarini, Wushuai Zhang, Ming Lang, Yuanxue Chen, Zhenling Cui, Yakov Kuzyakov, Andreas Richter, Xinping Chen, Fusuo Zhang, Jing Tian (Corresponding author)

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The soil microbial carbon pump (MCP) is increasingly acknowledged as being directly linked to soil organic carbon (SOC) accumulation and stability. Given the close coupling of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycles and the constraints imposed by their stoichiometry on microbial growth, N addition might affect microbial growth strategies with potential consequences for necromass formation and carbon stability. However, this topic remains largely unexplored. Based on two multi-level N fertilizer experiments over 10 years in two soils with contrasting soil fertility located in the North (Cambisol, carbon-poor) and Southwest (Luvisol, carbon-rich), we hypothesized that different resource demands of microorganism elicit a trade-off in microbial growth potential (Y-strategy) and resource-acquisition (A-strategy) in response to N addition, and consequently on necromass formation and soil carbon stability. We combined measurements of necromass metrics (MCP efficacy) and soil carbon stability (chemical composition and mineral associated organic carbon) with potential changes in microbial life history strategies (assessed via soil metagenomes and enzymatic activity analyses). The contribution of microbial necromass to SOC decreased with N addition in the Cambisol, but increased in the Luvisol. Soil microbial life strategies displayed two distinct responses in two soils after N amendment: shift toward A-strategy (Cambisol) or Y-strategy (Luvisol). These divergent responses are owing to the stoichiometric imbalance between microbial demands and resource availability for C and N, which presented very distinct patterns in the two soils. The partial correlation analysis further confirmed that high N addition aggravated stoichiometric carbon demand, shifting the microbial community strategy toward resource-acquisition which reduced carbon stability in Cambisol. In contrast, the microbial Y-strategy had the positive direct effect on MCP efficacy in Luvisol, which greatly enhanced carbon stability. Such findings provide mechanistic insights into the stoichiometric regulation of MCP efficacy, and how this is mediated by site-specific trade-offs in microbial life strategies, which contribute to improving our comprehension of soil microbial C sequestration and potential optimization of agricultural N management.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere17311
Number of pages19
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2024

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 106026 Ecosystem research
  • 106022 Microbiology


  • growth yield
  • microbial carbon pump efficacy
  • microbial life-history strategies
  • nitrogen addition
  • resource acquisition
  • SOC stability

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