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Citation. Fierer, N.; Craine, J.M.; McLauchlan, K.; Schimel, J.P. 2005. Litter quality and the temperature sensitivity of decomposition. ECOLOGY 86:320-326. 

Abstract. The temperature sensitivity of litter decomposition will influence the rates of ecosystem carbon sequestration in a warmer world. A number of studies have shown that the temperature sensitivity of litter decomposition can vary depending on litter type and extent of decomposition. However, the underlying causes of this variation are not well understood. According to fundamental principles of enzyme kinetics, the temperature sensitivity of microbial decomposition should be inversely related to litter carbon quality. We tested the accuracy of this hypothesis by adding ground plant shoot and root material to soils incubated under controlled conditions and measuring the temperature sensitivities of decomposition at three time points throughout a 53-d incubation. As the overall quality of the litter organic C declined, litter decomposition became more sensitive to temperature. This was true regardless of whether differences in C quality were due to inherent differences in litter chemistry or due to differences in the extent of decomposition. The same pattern was observed when specific C compounds of varying quality were added to soil, suggesting that substrate C quality has a significant and predictable influence on the temperature sensitivity of microbial decomposition.

Key Words: CO2, litter decomposition, mineralization, Q10, respiration, soil carbon, temperature

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