Publication Details

Category Text Publication
Reference Category Journals
DOI 10.1016/j.soilbio.2013.01.018
Title (Primary) Combined effects of multifactor climate change and land-use on decomposition in temperate grassland
Author Walter, J.; Hein, R.; Beierkuhnlein, C.; Hammerl, V.; Jentsch, A.; Sch├Ądler, M.; Schuerings, J.; Kreyling, J.
Source Titel Soil Biology & Biochemistry
Year 2013
Department BZF; NSF
Volume 60
Page From 10
Page To 18
Language englisch
Keywords Carbon turnover; Climate change; C/N ratio; EVENT experiments; Extreme weather event; Global warming; Litter bag; Microbial activity; Nutrient cycling
UFZ wide themes RU1;

Climate change is likely to alter decomposition rates through direct effects on soil biotic activity and indirect effects on litter quality with possible impacts on the global carbon budget and nutrient cycling. Currently, there is a need to study the combined effects of climatic drivers and agricultural practises on decomposition.

In an in situ litter bag experiment, we studied the effects of rainfall variability (including drought combined with heavy rain pulses as well as regular irrigation) interacting with winter warming and increased winter precipitation and with changes in cutting frequency, on decomposition in a temperate grassland. Litter bags contained mixed and species-specific litter of all different climate and land-use manipulations and were placed within the plots of litter origin. Moreover, we aimed to disentangle the causes of changes in decomposition by investigating two further approaches: Firstly, we studied the effects of changes in leaf chemicals as a result of the manipulations by removing litter from the experiment that has been pre-exposed to the manipulations before placing it on an untreated standard plot outside the experiment. Secondly, we assessed the effects of changes in soil faunal activity by investigating the decomposition of standard material under differing rainfall variability.

As a result, decomposition was reduced when litter bags were exposed to drought for six weeks within an 11 months period. Neither additional winter rain nor winter warming had an effect on decomposition, likely because winter warming reduced snow cover and increased variability of surface temperatures. Climate manipulations did not change litter quality. Furthermore, decomposition on the untreated standard plot was not affected by the climate manipulations that the litter was previously exposed to. Thus, reduced decomposition under extreme rainfall variability and drought may mainly be caused by a decrease in soil biotic activity, as indicated by reduced decomposition of standard material during drought.

More frequent cutting strongly stimulated decomposition, however, this stimulating effect was absent under extreme rainfall variability including drought. The stimulation of decomposition under more frequent cutting was attributed to changes in litter quality, namely a decrease in C/N ratio. Accordingly, litter from more frequently cut communities decomposed faster on the untreated control plot outside the experiment.

Projected increases in drought frequency and increased rainfall variability under climate change may inhibit decomposition and alter nutrient and carbon cycling along with soil quality. Especially decomposition in frequently cut grassland appears vulnerable towards drought.

Persistent UFZ Identifier
Walter, J., Hein, R., Beierkuhnlein, C., Hammerl, V., Jentsch, A., Sch├Ądler, M., Schuerings, J., Kreyling, J. (2013):
Combined effects of multifactor climate change and land-use on decomposition in temperate grassland
Soil Biol. Biochem. 60 , 10 - 18 10.1016/j.soilbio.2013.01.018