Soil carbon (C) cycling can slow or accelerate in response to new C inputs from fresh organic matter. This change in native C mineralization, known as the “microbial priming effect,” is difficult to predict because the underlying mechanisms of priming are still poorly understood. We hypothesized that soil mineral assemblage, specifically short-range-order (SRO) minerals, influences microbial responses to different quality C substrate inputs. To test this, we added 350 μg C g-1soil weekly of an artificial root exudates mixture primarily comprised of glucose, sucrose, lactate and fructose (a simple C source) or ground ponderosa pine litter (a complex C source) for six weeks to three soil types from similar ecosystems derived from different parent material. The soils, from andesite, basalt, and granite parent materials, had decreasing abundance in SRO minerals, respectively. We found that the simple C substrate induced 63 ±16.3% greater positive priming than the complex C across all soil types. The quantity of soil SRO materials was negatively correlated with soil respiration, but positively correlated with priming. The lowest SRO soil amended with litter primed the least (14 ± 11 μgCO2-C g-1), while the largest priming effect occurring in the highest SRO soil amended with simple substrate (246 ± 18 μgCO2-C g-1). Our results indicate that higher SRO mineral content could accelerate microorganisms’ capacity to mineralize native soil organic carbon and respond more strongly to labile C inputs. However, while all treatments exhibited positive priming, the amount of C added over the six-week incubation was greater than total CO2 respired. This suggests that despite a relative stimulation of native C mineralization, these soils act as C sinks rather than sources in response to fresh organic matter inputs.
Finley B., Rasmussen C., Dijkstra P., Schwartz E., Mau R., Liu X-J.A., Hungate B. (2014): Soil Mineralogy and Substrate Quality Effects on Microbial Priming. Abstract B21J-04 presented at 2014 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 15-19 Dec..