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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/gmd-2018-173
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Model description paper 09 Aug 2018

Model description paper | 09 Aug 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Geoscientific Model Development (GMD).

Modeling the effects of litter stoichiometry and soil mineral N availability on soil organic matter formation

Haicheng Zhang1, Daniel S. Goll1, Stefano Manzoni2,3, Philippe Ciais1, Bertrand Guenet1, and Yuanyuan Huang1 Haicheng Zhang et al.
  • 1Le Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, IPSL-LSCE CEA/CNRS/UVSQ Saclay, 91191, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 2Department of Physical Geography, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 3Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract. Microbial decomposition of plant litter is a crucial process for the land carbon (C) cycle, as it directly controls the partitioning of litter-C between CO2 released to the atmosphere versus the formation of new soil organic matter (SOM). Land surface models used to study the C cycle rarely considered flexibility in the decomposer C use efficiency (CUEd) defined by the fraction of decomposed litter-C that is retained as SOM (as opposed to be respired). In this study, we adapted a conceptual formulation of CUEd based on assumption that litter decomposers optimally adjust their CUEd as a function of litter substrate C to nitrogen (N) stoichiometry to maximize their growth rates. This formulation was incorporated into the widely used CENTURY soil biogeochemical model and evaluated based on data from laboratory litter incubation experiments. Results indicated that the CENTURY model with new CUEd formulation was able to reproduce differences in respiration rate of litter with contrasting C:N ratios and under different levels of mineral N availability, whereas the default model with fixed CUEd could not. Using the model with adapted CUEd formulation, we also illustrated that litter quality affected the long-term SOM formation crucially. Litter with a small C:N ratio tended to form a larger SOM pool than litter with larger C:N ratios, as it could be more efficiently incorporated into SOM by microorganisms. This study provided a simple but effective formulation to quantify the effect of varying litter quality (N content) on SOM formation across temporal scales. Optimality theory appears to be suitable to predict complex processes of litter decomposition into soil C, and to quantify how plant residues and manure can be harnessed to improve soil C sequestration for climate mitigation.

Haicheng Zhang et al.
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Status: final response (author comments only)
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Haicheng Zhang et al.
Model code and software

CENTURY-Matrix-CUE H. Zhang and Y. Huang https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1307384

Haicheng Zhang et al.
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Short summary
Carbon use efficiency (CUE) of decomposers depends strongly on the organic matter quality (e.g. C:N ratio) and soil nutrient availability, rather than a fixed value. Soil biogeochemical model with flexible CUE can better capture the differences in respiration rate of litter with contrasting C:N ratios and under different levels of mineral N availability than the model with fixed CUE, and well represent the effect of varying litter quality (N content) on SOM formation across temporal scales.
Carbon use efficiency (CUE) of decomposers depends strongly on the organic matter quality (e.g....
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