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Modeling the effects of litter stoichiometry and soil mineral N availability on soil organic matter formation using CENTURY-CUE (v1.0)

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 CO 2 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 (CUE d) 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 CUE d based on assumption that litter decomposers optimally adjust their CUE d 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 CUE d 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 CUE d could not. Using the model with flexible CUE d , we also illustrated that litter quality affected the long-term SOM formation. 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.
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Haicheng Zhang, Daniel Goll, Stefano Manzoni, Philippe Ciais, Bertrand Guenet, et al.. Modeling the effects of litter stoichiometry and soil mineral N availability on soil organic matter formation using CENTURY-CUE (v1.0). Geoscientific Model Development, European Geosciences Union, 2018, 11 (12), pp.4779-4796. ⟨10.5194/gmd-11-4779-2018⟩. ⟨hal-02374045⟩

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