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Prior exposure to diurnal heating influences soil respiration and N availability upon rewetting

Zheng, Bo, Dang, Tan, Marschner, Petra
Biology and fertility of soils 2017 v.53 no.7 pp. 715-721
ambient temperature, biogeochemical cycles, heat, microbial biomass, microorganisms, nutrient availability, soil, soil respiration, summer, Australia
On sunny summer days, the top 10 cm of soil in southern Australia are heated to temperatures between 50 and 80 °C for a few hours a day, often for several successive days. These extreme temperature events are likely to have profound effects on the microbiota in these soils, but we do not know how this recurrent heat exposure influences microbial dynamics and associated nutrient cycling. In this study, an air-dry soil from southern Australia was exposed to one or two diurnal heating events with maximum temperature of 50 or 70 °C. The control was left at ambient temperature (Amb). All soils were rapidly rewet. Soil respiration was measured for 7 days after rewetting; microbial biomass C, available N and P were determined before rewetting and 1 and 7 days after rewetting. After heating and before rewetting compared to Amb, microbial biomass C (MBC) was 50–80% lower, but available P was 25% higher in heated soils. Available N differed little between Amb and heated soils. Rewetting resulted in a flush of respiration in Amb and soils heated once, but there was no respiration flush in soils heated twice. Cumulative respiration compared to Amb was about 10% higher in soils heated once and about 25% lower in soils heated twice. In Amb, MBC 1 day after rewetting was similar as before rewetting. But in heated soils, MBC increased from before rewetting to 1 day after rewetting about fourfold. Compared to Amb, available N 1 day after rewetting was 20–30% higher in soils heated to 70 °C. Seven days after rewetting, available N was 10% higher than Amb only in soils heated twice to 70 °C. It can be concluded that diurnal heating kills a large proportion of the microbial biomass and influences soil respiration and nutrient availability after rewetting of soils. The effect of heating depends on both maximum temperature and number of events.