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Linking rhizosphere respiration rate of three grassland species with root nitrogen concentration

Tang, Mao, Keck, Daniel C., Cheng, Weixin, Zeng, Hui, Zhu, Biao
Geoderma 2019 v.346 pp. 84-90
biomass, buckets, carbon, cell respiration, flowering, forbs, grasses, grasslands, isotope labeling, legumes, microorganisms, nitrogen, nitrogen content, rhizodeposition, rhizosphere, roots, soil, soil carbon, soil organic matter, soil respiration, sowing
Rhizosphere respiration (from roots and rhizosphere microbes utilizing root-derived carbon (C)) is a significant component of soil respiration, and rhizosphere priming effect (RPE, change in soil C decomposition by the presence of living roots in the rhizosphere) is crucial for regulating soil C decomposition. However, the relationships between rhizosphere respiration and RPE and root traits (such as biomass and nitrogen (N) concentration) across plant species and growing conditions are not fully resolved. In this study, we investigated rhizosphere respiration rate and RPE of three grassland species (a grass, a forb and a legume) using a continuous isotope-labeling technique. We found a significantly positive relationship between root-mass-specific rhizosphere respiration rate and root N concentration across the three species and two types of mesocosms (small pots and large buckets), and the scaling exponents were approximately one (indicating isometric scaling). Further, soil organic matter (SOM) decomposition rate was not statistically different between the planted treatments and the unplanted control, suggesting insignificant RPE at the early flowering stage (90 days after seeding) for these three species. Likely, respiration from rhizodeposition (root inputs to soil during the 90-day labeling period) was not included in SOM decomposition by the isotope labeling method, which underestimates SOM decomposition and may partly contribute to the lack of RPE of the three species. Overall, our results show that rhizosphere respiration rate is scalable with root N concentration across different plant species and growing conditions, while RPE of these grassland species at the early flowering stage was insignificant.