Manganese limitation as a mechanism for reduced decomposition in soils under atmospheric nitrogen deposition


Long-term atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition has been shown to reduce leaf litter and lignin decomposition in temperate forest soils, leading to an accumulation of soil carbon (C). Reduced decomposition has been accompanied by altered structure and function of fungal communities, the primary decomposers in forest ecosystems; however, a mechanistic understanding of fungal responses to chronic N enrichment is lacking. A reduction in soil and litter manganese (Mn) concentrations under N enrichment (i.e., Mn limitation) may help explain these observations, because Mn is a cofactor and regulator of lignin-decay enzymes produced by fungi. We conducted a laboratory study to evaluate the effect of Mn availability on decomposition dynamics in chronically N-enriched soils. We measured litter mass loss, lignin relative abundance, and lignin-decay enzyme activities, and characterized the litter fungal community by ITS2 metabarcoding. We observed a significant positive correlation between Mn availability and lignin-decay enzyme activities. In addition, long-term (28 years) N enrichment increased the relative abundance of ‘weak’ decomposers (e.g., yeasts), but this response was reversed with Mn amendment, suggesting that higher Mn availability may promote fungal communities better adapted to decompose lignin. We conclude that Mn limitation may represent a mechanism to explain shifts in fungal communities, reduced litter decomposition, and increased soil C accumulation under long-term atmospheric N deposition.


Soil Biogeochemistry and Microbial Ecology

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Soil Biology and Biochemistry



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