|Abstract or Summary
- There is a growing consensus that anthropogenic warming will impact soil organic matter (SOM). Globally, soil contains 2-3 times more carbon (C) than plants, and like plants, temperature induced change of SOM could have significant climate repercussions. Although, the majority of warming experiments have increased day and night temperatures equally, there is evidence of greater increase in global minimum temperatures compared to midday maxima, resulting in an altered mean diurnal temperature range (DTR). Here, intact grassland mesocosms (Terracosm facility, Corvallis OR) were used to assess soil organic C (SOC) changes resulting from altered DTR over a six year period. We assessed the response of SOC to a mean temperature increase of 3.5°C with three temperature treatments: symmetric (SYM) warming of +3.5°C, asymmetric (ASYM) warming of +5°C/ +2°C at minimum and
maximum daily temperature, respectively, and control treatments that were kept at ambient (AMB) temperatures. After six years of warming SOC was surprisingly unaltered by increased temperature and was more strongly influenced by plant dynamics than expected. The strongest temperature response was from soil respiration (reported as In-situ cumulative soil C mineralization) with at least 33% higher cumulative C mineralization in warming treatments. In agreement with the soil respiration response, light fraction C (<1.8g/cm³) was depleted in warming treatments (8-10% less C than AMB) at shallow depths. However, laboratory cumulative soil C mineralization, a measure of most easily degraded SOC, had a lack of response to temperature, and actually had trends for greater C in warming treatments. This response was further validated by increased soil water dissolved organic C (DOC) concentration in warming treatments. An increase in these measures suggested that plants were more influential than temperature for highly labile SOC. Aggregates, an important part of SOC allocation and sequestration, had a differential response to SYM and ASYM treatments but this was likely more directly caused by root dynamics than temperature treatment. Due to varying responses of SOC indicators, C budgets were used to assess total ecosystem C balance. We found that under AMB conditions soil was an atmospheric C sink and under both SYM and ASYM conditions soil was an atmospheric C source, with ASYM having a higher source potential than SYM. Overall, SOC responded to both temperature increase via soil respiration and differentially to temperature treatments based on plant response. We expect that a reduced diurnal temperature range could affect soil C differently than mean temperature increase, if plant differences are sustained.