Variation in Temperature Dependences across Europe Reveals the Climate Sensitivity of Soil Microbial Decomposers

Carla Cruz-Paredes, Dániel Tájmel, Johannes Rousk

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Temperature is a major determinant of biological process rates, and microorganisms are key regulators of ecosystem carbon (C) dynamics. Temperature controls microbial rates of decomposition, and thus warming can stimulate C loss, creating positive feedback to climate change. If trait distributions that define temperature relationships of microbial communities can adapt to altered temperatures, they could modulate the strength of this feedback, but if this occurs remains unclear. In this study, we sampled soils from a latitudinal climate gradient across Europe. We established the temperature relationships of microbial growth and respiration rates and used these to investigate if and with what strength the community trait distributions for temperature were adapted to their local environment. Additionally, we sequenced bacterial and fungal amplicons to link the variance in community composition to changes in temperature traits. We found that microbial temperature trait distributions varied systematically with climate, suggesting that an increase in mean annual temperature (MAT) of 1°C will result in warm-shifted microbial temperature trait distributions equivalent to an increase in temperature minimum (Tmin) of 0.20°C for bacterial growth, 0.07°C for fungal growth, and 0.10°C for respiration. The temperature traits for bacterial growth were thus more responsive to warming than those for respiration and fungal growth. The microbial community composition also varied with temperature, enabling the interlinkage of taxonomic information with microbial temperature traits. Our work shows that the adaptation of microbial temperature trait distributions to a warming climate will affect the C-climate feedback, emphasizing the need to represent this to capture the microbial feedback to climate change. IMPORTANCE One of the largest uncertainties of global warming is if the microbial decomposer feedback will strengthen or weaken soil C-climate feedback. Despite decades of research effort, the strength of this feedback to warming remains unknown. We here present evidence that microbial temperature relationships vary systematically with environmental temperatures along a climate gradient and use this information to forecast how microbial temperature traits will create feedback between the soil C cycle and climate warming. We show that the current use of a universal temperature sensitivity is insufficient to represent the microbial feedback to climate change and provide new estimates to replace this flawed assumption in Earth system models. We also demonstrate that temperature relationships for rates of microbial growth and respiration are differentially affected by warming, with stronger responses to warming for microbial growth (soil C formation) than for respiration (C loss from soil to atmosphere), which will affect the atmosphere-land C balance.

TidsskriftApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Udgave nummer5
Sider (fra-til)e0209022
StatusUdgivet - 31 maj 2023
Udgivet eksterntJa


  • climate change
  • microbial community composition
  • microbial growth
  • soil respiration
  • temperature relationships
  • temperature sensitivity

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