January 13, 2023
Journal Article

Minerals limit the deep soil respiration response to warming in a tropical Andisol


Tropical regions hold one third of the world's soil organic carbon (Jobbágy & Jackson, 2000), but few experiments have warmed tropical soils in situ. The vulnerability of these soils to climate change-induced losses is uncertain with many hypothesizing these soils would be less sensitive to climate change because already-high temperatures in tropical systems might limit microbial sensitivity or due to increased mineral protection of organic carbon in highly weathered tropical soils. Here we present the results of a deep soil (0-100 cm) warming experiment in a tropical Andisol. Andisols can store large, persistent pools of soil carbon that are protected from decomposition by poorly and non-crystalline minerals (PNCM). In 20 cm depth intervals, we measured key soil properties including carbon, nitrogen, pH, PNCM, bacterial and fungal richness along with temperature, moisture, and CO2 production. Over a year of soil warming, CO2 production significantly increased by 50-300% per degree of warming, but only in the top 40 cm of the soil profile in contrast to the results of other deep soil warming experiments. Multimodal analysis supported our hypothesis that high concentrations of PNCM was the primary driver of the lack of CO2 response, followed by high relative soil moisture and low bacterial richness, which may be a proxy for organic carbon availability. The lack of elevated CO2 production in response to warming suggests a limited positive feedback to climate change in Andisols driven by their strong mineral protection of organic matter. Therefore, Andisols should be considered high priority restoration or protection areas when considering the management of soil carbon stocks as part of climate action.

Published: January 13, 2023


McGrath C.R., C. Hicks Pries, N. Nguyen, B. Glazer, S. Lio, and S. Crow. 2022. Minerals limit the deep soil respiration response to warming in a tropical Andisol. Biogeochemistry 161, no. 2:85–99. PNNL-SA-175835. doi:10.1007/s10533-022-00965-1