Interaction between N and C in Soil Has Consequences for Global Carbon Cycling

  • Rydberg Laboratory, Halmstad University, P.O. Box 823, S-301. 18 Halmstad, Sweden

Received date: 2011-11-25

  Revised date: 2011-11-30

  Online published: 2012-03-30


Energy-yielding processes in the N-cycle form important links with the global C-cycle. One example is demonstrated with the supply of nitrogen to soils, initially resulting in lowered CO2 emissions. This well known effect has mostly been interpreted as hampered or delayed soil respiration. When added in surplus, however, nitrogen supply does not stabilize the minimum emissions initially obtained, but gradually results in increased CO2 emissions. Specific inhibition of the CO2 consuming process nitrification in soils, with surplus ammonium supply or with acetylene, mostly results in additional CO2 emissions. The difference between this disclosed gross heterotrophic respiration (GHR) and the net CO2 emission (NHR) is the result of a within-soil CO2-sink. Soil respiration solely determined as CO2 emitted as NHR (the common situation) therefore may lead to misinterpretations of the function of the soil system, especially in areas with high N-deposition. As a consequence, the interpreted’acclimation’ of the soil respiration response in a warmer world should be reconsidered. The concept of respiration inhibition by nitrogen supply may also be questioned. Disregard of these processes, including the indicated N-driven within-soil CO2-sink, may prevent adequate measures counteracting climate change.

Cite this article

Siegfried FLEISCHER . Interaction between N and C in Soil Has Consequences for Global Carbon Cycling[J]. Journal of Resources and Ecology, 2012 , 3(1) : 16 -19 . DOI: 10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2012.01.003


Billings S A, S E Ziegler. 2008. Altered patterns of soil carbon substrate usage and heterotrophic respiration in a pine forest with elevated CO2 and N fertilization. Global Change Biology, 14: 1025-1036.
Bond-Lambert B, A Thomson. 2010. Temperature-associated increases in the global soil respiration record. Nature, 464: 579-582.
Davidson E A, I A Janssens. 2006. Temperature sensitivity of soil carbon decomposition and feedbacks to climate change. Nature, 440: 165-173.
Fleischer S, I Bouse. 2008. Nitrogen cycling drives a strong within-soil CO2-sink. Tellus, 60B: 782-786.
Giardina C P, M G Ryan. 2000. Evidence that decomposition rates of organic carbon in mineral soil do not vary with temperature. Nature, 404: 858-861.
Hanson P J, N T Edwards, C T Garten, J A Andrews. 2000. Separating root and soil microbial contributions to soil respiration: A review of methods and observations. Biogeochemistry, 48: 115-146.
Hartley I P, D W Hopkins, M S Garnett, M Sommerkorn, P A Wookey. 2008. Soil microbial respiration in artic soil does not acclimate to temperature.Ecology Letters, 11: 1092-1100.
Janssens I A, W Dieleman, S Luyssaert, J-A Subke, M Reichstein, et al. 2010. Reduction of soil respiration in response to nitrogen deposition.Nature Geoscience, 3: 315-322.
Lamersdorf N P, W Borken. 2004. Clean rain promotes fine root growth and soil respiration in a Norway spruce forest. Global Change Biology, 10: 1351-1362.
Luo Y, S Wan, D Hui, L L Wallace. 2001. Acclimatization of soil respiration to warming in a tall grass prairie. Nature, 413: 622-624).
Luyssaert S, I Inglima, M Jung, A D Richardson, M Reichstein, et al. 2007. CO2 balance of boreal, temperate, and tropical forests derived from a global database. Global change biology, 13: 2509-2537
Mo J M, W Zhang, W Zhu, P Gundersen, Y Fang, et al. 2008. Nitrogen addition reduces soil respiration in a mature tropical forest in southern China. Global Change Biology, 14: 403-412.
Olsson P, S Linder, R Giesler, P Högberg. 2005. Fertilization of boreal forest reduces both autotrophic and heterotrophic soil respiration. Global Change Biology,11: 1745-1753.
Raich J W, C S Potter, D Bhagawati. 2002. Interannual variability in global soil respiration. 1980-1994. Global Change Biology, 8: 800-812.
Schuur E A G, S E Trumbore. 2006. Heterotrophic contribution to soil respiration from boreal black spruce forest: using isotopes to partition sources to soil carbon dioxide flux. Global Change Biology, 12:165-176.
Strömgren M. 2001. Soil-Surface CO2 Flux and Growth in a Boreal Norway Spruce Stand. Effects of Soil Warming and Nutrition. Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae, Silvestria, 220: 1-44.