April 21, 2020  |  

Anthropogenic N deposition, fungal gene expression, and an increasing soil carbon sink in the Northern Hemisphere.

Terrestrial ecosystems in the Northern Hemisphere are a globally important sink for anthropogenic CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, slowing its accumulation as well as the pace of climate warming. With the use of a long-term field experiment (ca. 20 yr), we show that the expression of fungal class II peroxidase genes, which encode enzymes mediating the rate-limiting step of organic matter decay, are significantly downregulated (-60 to -80%) because of increases in anthropogenic N deposition; this response was consistent with a decline in extracellular peroxidase enzyme activity in soil, the slowing of organic-matter decay, and greater soil C storage. The reduction in peroxidase expression we document here occurred in the absence of a compositional shift in metabolically active fungi, indicating that an overall reduction in peroxidase expression underlies the slowing of decay and increases in soil C storage. This molecular mechanism has global implications for soil C storage and should be represented in coupled climate-biogeochemical models simulating the influence of enhanced terrestrial C storage on atmospheric CO2 and the future climate of an N-enriched Earth. © 2019 by the Ecological Society of America.


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