Effects of belowground litter addition, increased precipitation and clipping on soil carbon and nitrogen mineralization in a temperate steppe
Soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycling are sensitive to changes in environmental factors and play critical roles in the responses of terrestrial ecosystems to natural and anthropogenic perturbations. This study was conducted to quantify the effects of belowground particulate litter (BPL) addition, increased precipitation and their interactions on soil C and N mineralization in two adjacent sites where belowground photosynthate allocation was manipulated through vegetation clipping in a temperate steppe of northeastern China from 2010 to 2011. The results show that BPL addition significantly increase soil C mineralization rate (CMR) and net N mineralization rate (NMR). Although increased precipitation-induced enhancement of soil CMR essentially ceased after the first year, stimulation of soil NMR and net nitrification rate continued into the second year. Clipping only marginally decreased soil CMR and NMR during the two years. There were significant synergistic interactions between BPL addition (and increased precipitation) and clipping on soil CMR and NMR, likely to reflect shifts in soil microbial community structure and a decrease in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi biomass due to the reduction of belowground photosynthate allocation. These results highlight the importance of plants in mediating the responses of soil C and N mineralization to potentially increased BPL and precipitation by controlling belowground photosynthate allocation in the temperate steppe.