Temperature Effects on Kinetics of Microbial Respiration and Net Nitrogen and Sulfur Mineralization


Global climate change may impact the cycling of C, N, and S in forest ecosystems because increased soil temperatures could alter rates of microbially mediated processes. We studied the effects of temperature on microbial respiration and net N and S mineralization in surface soils from four northern hardwood forests in the Great Lakes region. Soil samples were incubated in the laboratory at five temperatures (5, 10, 15, 20, and 25°C) for 32 wk. Headspace gas was analyzed for CO2-C at 2-wk intervals, and soils were extracted to determine inorganic N and S. Cumulative respired C and mineralized N and S increased with temperature at all sites and were strongly related (r2 = 0.67 to 0.90, significant at P = 0.001) to an interaction between temperature and soil organic C. Production of respired C and mineralized N was closely fit by first-order kinetic models (r2 0.94, P = 0.001), whereas mineralized S was best described by zero-order kinetics. Contrary to common assumptions, rate constants estimated from the first-order models were not consistently related to temperature, but apparent pool sizes of C and N were highly temperature dependent. Temperature effects on microbial respiration could not be accurately predicted using temperature-adjusted rate constants combined with a constant pool size of labile C. Results suggest that rates of microbial respiration and the mineralization of N and S may be related to a temperature-dependent constraint on microbial access to substrate pools. Simulation models should rely on a thorough understanding of the biological basis underlying microbially mediated C, N, and S transformations in soil.


soil warming, microbial respiration, soil temperature, soil heating, Great Lakes region, forests, climate change, climatic changes, carbon, nitrogen, sulphur, mineralization


Biology | Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Microbiology | Soil Science

Original Citation

MacDonald, N. W., Zak, D. R., & Pregitzer, K. S. (1995). Temperature Effects on Kinetics of Microbial Respiration and Net Nitrogen and Sulfur Mineralization. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 59(1), 233–240. https://doi.org/10.2136/sssaj1995.03615995005900010036x