Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 54, Issue 8, pp 925–934 | Cite as

Simulated leaf litter addition causes opposite priming effects on natural forest and plantation soils

  • Maokui Lyu
  • Jinsheng XieEmail author
  • Matthew A. Vadeboncoeur
  • Minhuang Wang
  • Xi Qiu
  • Yinbang Ren
  • Miaohua Jiang
  • Yusheng YangEmail author
  • Yakov Kuzyakov
Original Paper


The conversion of natural forests to tree plantations alters the quality and decreases the quantity of litter inputs into the soil, but how the alteration of litter inputs affect soil organic matter (SOM) decomposition remain unclear. We examined SOM decomposition by adding 13C-labeled leaf-litter of Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata (Lamb.) Hook) to soils from a natural evergreen broad-leaved forest and an adjacent Chinese fir plantation converted from a natural evergreen broad-leaved forest 42 years ago. Over 195 days, we monitored CO2 efflux and its δ13C, microbial biomass, and the composition of microbial groups by phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs). To distinguish priming mechanisms, partitioning of C sources in CO2 and microbial biomass was determined based on δ13C. Leaf-litter addition to natural forest increased microbial biomass and induced up to 14% faster SOM decomposition (positive priming) than that in soil without litter. In contrast, negative priming in soils under plantation indicated preferential use of added leaf-litter rather than recalcitrant SOM. This preferential use of leaf-litter was supported by an increased fungal to bacterial ratio and litter-derived (13C) microbial biomass, reflecting increased substrate recalcitrance, the respective changes in microbial substrate utilization and increased C use efficiency. The magnitude and direction of priming effects depend on microbial preferential utilization of new litter or SOM. Concluding, the impact of coniferous leaf-litter inputs on the SOM priming is divergent in natural evergreen broad-leaved forests and plantations, an important consideration in understanding long-term C dynamics and cycling in natural and plantation forest ecosystems.


Microbial community composition Priming effects Selective decomposition Subtropical forest soils Land-use effects 



We thank Soil Science Consulting ( for help in the preparation of the manuscript.


The research was funded by the National Key Research and Development Program (No. 2016YFD0600204), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. U1405231, U1505233, and 31470501), and the National “973” Program of China (No. 2014CB954003). The publication was supported by the Government Program of Competitive Growth of Kazan Federal University and with the support of the “RUDN University program 5-100.”

Supplementary material

374_2018_1314_MOESM1_ESM.docx (980 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 979 kb)


  1. Ayres E, Steltzer H, Berg S, Wall DH (2009) Soil biota accelerate decomposition in high-elevation forests by specializing in the breakdown of litter produced by the plant species above them. J Ecol 97:901–912CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Blagodatskaya E, Kuzyakov Y (2008) Mechanisms of real and apparent priming effects and their dependence on soil microbial biomass and community structure: critical review. Biol Fertil Soils 45:115–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blagodatskaya E, Khomyakov N, Myachina O, Bogomolova I, Blagodatsky S, Kuzyakov Y (2014) Microbial interactions affect sources of priming induced by cellulose. Soil Biol Biochem 74:39–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brockerhoff EG, Jactel H, Parrotta JA, Quine CP, Sayer J (2008) Plantation forests and biodiversity: oxymoron or opportunity? Biodivers Conserv 17:925–951CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chen GS, Yang YS, Xie JS, Guo JF, Gao R, Qian W (2005) Conversion of a natural broad-leafed evergreen forest into pure plantation forests in a subtropical area: effects on carbon storage. Ann Forest Sci 62:659–668CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen R, Senbayram M, Blagodatsky S, Myachina O, Dittert K, Lin X, Blagodatskaya E, Kuzyakov Y (2014) Soil C and N availability determine the priming effect: microbial N mining and stoichiometric decomposition theories. Glob Chang Biol 20:2356–2367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cheng WX (1999) Rhizosphere feedbacks in elevated CO2. Tree Physiol 19:313–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cheng WX, Parton WJ, Gonzalez-Meler MA, Phillips R, Asao S, McNickle GG, Brzostek E, Jastrow JD (2014) Tansley review: synthesis and modeling perspectives of rhizosphere priming. New Phytol 201:31–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Collins CG, Carey CJ, Aronson EL, Kopp CW, Diez JM (2016) Direct and indirect effects of native range expansion on soil microbial community structure and function. J Ecol 104:1271–1283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Creamer CA, Menezes ABD, Krull ES, Sanderman J, Newton-Walters R, Farrell M (2015) Microbial community structure mediates response of soil C decomposition to litter addition and warming. Soil Biol Biochem 80:175–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. De Graaff MA, Classen AT, Castro HF, Schadt CW (2010) Labile soil carbon inputs mediate the soil microbial community composition and plant residue decomposition rates. New Phytol 188:1055–1064CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Don A, Böhme IH, Dohrmann AB, Poeplau C, Tebbe CC (2017) Microbial community composition affects soil organic carbon turnover in mineral soils. Biol Fertil Soils 53:445–456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dijkstra FA, Carrillo Y, Pendall E, Morgan JA (2013) Rhizosphere priming: a nutrient perspective. Front Microbiol 4:216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dungait JAJ, Kemmitt SJ, Michallon L, Guo S, Wen Q, Brookes PC, Evershed RP (2011) Variable responses of the soil microbial biomass to trace concentrations of 13C-labelled glucose, using 13C-PLFA analysis. Eur J Soil Sci 62:117–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. FAO (2006) Global forest resources assessment 2005: progress towards sustainable forest management. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, RomeGoogle Scholar
  16. Fierer N, Allen AS, Schimel JP, Holden PA (2003) Controls on microbial CO2 production: a comparison of surface and subsurface soil horizons. Glob Chang Biol 9:1322–1332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fontaine S, Bardoux G, Abbadie L, Mariotti A (2004) Carbon input to soil may decrease soil carbon content. Ecol Lett 7:314–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fontaine S, Henault C, Aamor A, Bdioui N, Bloor JMG, Maire V, Mary B, Revaillot S, Maron PA (2011) Fungi mediate long term sequestration of carbon and nitrogen in soil through their priming effect. Soil Biol Biochem 43:86–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fontaine S, Mariotti A, Abbadie L (2003) The priming effect of organic matter: a question of microbial competition? Soil Biol Biochem 35:837–843CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Garcia-Pausas J, Paterson E (2011) Microbial community abundance and structure are determinants of soil organic matter mineralisation in the presence of labile carbon. Soil Biol Biochem 43:1705–1713CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gunina A, Dippold M, Glaser B, Kuzyakov Y (2014) Fate of low molecular weight organic substances in an arable soil: from microbial uptake to utilisation and stabilisation. Soil Biol Biochem 77:304–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Guo J, Yang Z, Lin C, Liu X, Chen G, Yang Y (2016) Conversion of a natural evergreen broadleaved forest into coniferous plantations in a subtropical area: effects on composition of soil microbial communities and soil respiration. Biol Fertil Soils 52:799–809CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Herrero M, Henderson B, Havlík P, Thornton PK, Conant RT, Smith P, Wirsenius S, Hristov AN, Gerber PJ, Gill M, Butterbach-Bahl K, Valin H, Garnett T, Stehfest E (2016) Greenhouse gas mitigation potentials in the livestock sector. Nat Clim Chang 6:452–461CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Huang ZQ, He ZM, Wan XH, Hu ZH, Fan SH, Yang YS (2013) Harvest residue management effects on tree growth and ecosystem carbon in a Chinese fir plantation in subtropical China. Plant Soil 364:303–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kramer S, Marhan S, Ruess L, Armbruster W, Butenschoen O, Haslwimmer H, Kuzyakov Y, Pausch J, Scheunemann N, Schoene J, Schmalwasser A, Totsche KU, Walker F, Scheu S, Kandeler E (2012) Carbon flow into microbial and fungal biomass as basis for the belowground food web of agroecosystems. Pedobiologia 55:111–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kuzyakov Y (2002) Review: factors affecting rhizosphere priming effects. J Plant Nutr Soil Sci 165:382–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kuzyakov Y (2010) Priming effects: interactions between living and dead organic matter. Soil Biol Biochem 42:1363–1371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kuzyakov Y, Friedel JK, Stahr K (2000) Review of mechanisms and quantification of priming effects. Soil Biol Biochem 32:1485–1498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Li QR, Tian YQ, Zhang XY, Xu XL, Wang HM, Kuzyakov Y (2017) Labile carbon and nitrogen additions affect soil organic matter decomposition more strongly than temperature. Appl Soil Ecol 114:152–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lin C, Yang Y, Guo J, Chen G, Xie J (2011) Fine root decomposition of evergreen broadleaved and coniferous tree species in midsubtropical China: dynamics of dry mass, nutrient and organic fractions. Plant Soil 338:311–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lin Z, Li Y, Tang C, Luo Y, Fu W, Cai X, Li Y, Yue T, Jiang P, Hu S, Chang SX (2018) Converting natural evergreen broadleaf forests to intensively managed moso bamboo plantations affects the pool size and stability of soil organic carbon and enzyme activities. Biol Fertil Soils 54:467–480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Liu XF, Lin TC, Yang ZJ, Vadeboncoeur MA, Lin CF, Xiong DC, Lin WS, Chen GS, Xie JS, Li YQ, Yang YS (2017) Increased litter in subtropical forests boosts soil respiration in natural forests but not plantations of Castanopsis carlesii. Plant Soil 418:141–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lü MK, Xie JS, Wang C, Guo JF, Wang MH, Liu XF, Chen YM, Chen GS, Yang YS (2015) Forest conversion stimulated deep soil C losses and decreased C recalcitrance through priming effect in subtropical China. Biol Fertil Soils 51:857–867CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lu Y, Coops NC, Wang T, Wang G (2015) A process-based approach to estimate Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata) distribution and productivity in southern China under climate change. Forests 6:360–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lyu MK, Xie JS, Ukonmaanaho L, Jiang MH, Li YQ, Chen YM, Yang ZJ, Zhou YX, Lin WS, Yang YS (2017) Land-use change exerts a strong impact on deep soil C stabilization in subtropical forests. J Soils Sediments 17:2305–2317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Meidute S, Demoling F, Bååth E (2008) Antagonistic and synergistic effects of fungal and bacterial growth in soil after adding different carbon and nitrogen sources. Soil Biol Biochem 40:2334–2344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mikan CJ, Schimel JP, Doyle AP (2002) Temperature controls of microbial respiration in arctic tundra soils above and below freezing. Soil Biol Biochem 34:1785–1795CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Miltner A, Kindler R, Knicker H, Richnow HH, Kästner M (2009) Fate of microbial biomass-derived amino acids in soil and their contribution to soil organic matter. Org Geochem 40:978–985CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Miltner A, Bombach P, Schmidt-Brücken B, Kästner M (2012) SOM genesis: microbial biomass as a significant source. Biogeochemistry 111:41–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Oksanen J, Kindt R, Legendre P, O’Hara B, Stevens MHH, Oksanen MJ, Suggests M (2007) The vegan package. Commun Ecol Package 10Google Scholar
  41. Pan Y, Birdsey RA, Fang J, Houghton R, Kauppi PE, Kurz Werner A, Phillips OL, Shvidenko A, Lewis SL, Canadell JG, Ciais P, Jackson RB, Pacala S, McGuire AD, Piao S, Rautiainen A, Sitch S, Hayes D (2011) A large and persistent carbon sink in the world’s forests. Science 333:988–993CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Paterson E, Sim A (2013) Soil-specific response functions of organic matter mineralization to the availability of labile carbon. Glob Chang Biol 19:1562–1571CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Piao S, Fang J, Ciais P, Peylin P, Huang Y, Sitch S, Wang T (2009) The carbon balance of terrestrial ecosystems in China. Nature 458:1009–1013CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Salomé C, Nunan N, Pouteau V, Lerch TZ, Chenu C (2010) Carbon dynamics in topsoil and in subsoil may be controlled by different regulatory mechanisms. Glob Chang Biol 16:416–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schimel JP, Weintraub MN (2003) The implications of exoenzyme activity on microbial carbon and nitrogen limitation in soil: a theoretical model. Soil Biol Biochem 35:549–563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. SFA (2009) China’s forestry 2004–2008. China Forestry Publishing House, BeijingGoogle Scholar
  47. Shihan A, Hättenschwiler S, Milcu A, Joly FX, Santonja M, Fromin N (2017) Changes in soil microbial substrate utilization in response to altered litter diversity and precipitation in a Mediterranean shrubland. Biol Fertil Soils 53:171–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Shahbaz M, Kuzyakov Y, Sanaullah M, Heitkamp F, Zelenev V, Kumar A, Blagodatskaya E (2017) Microbial decomposition of soil organic matter is mediated by quality and quantity of crop residues: mechanisms and thresholds. Biol Fertil Soils 53:287–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Smith P (2014) Do grasslands act as a perpetual sink for carbon? Glob Chang Biol 20:2708–2711CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. State Soil Survey Service of China (1998) China soil. China Agriculture Press, BeijingGoogle Scholar
  51. Tunlid A, Hoitink HAJ, Low C, White DC (1989) Characterization of bacteria that suppress rhizoctonia damping-off in bark compost media by analysis of fatty-acid biomarkers. Appl Environ Microbiol 55:1368–1374PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  52. Van der Werf GR, Morton DC, DeFries RS, Olivier JG, Kasibhatla PS, Jackson RB, Collatz GJ, Randerson JT (2009) CO2 emissions from forest loss. Nat Geosci 2:737–738CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Vance ED, Brookes PC, Jenkinson DS (1987) An extraction method for measuring soil microbial biomass C. Soil Biol Biochem 19:703–707CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Veen GFC, Freschet GT, Ordonez A, Wardle DA (2015) Litter quality and environmental controls of home-field advantage effects on litter decomposition. Oikos 124:187–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Yang Y, Guo J, Chen G, Yin Y, Gao R, Lin C (2009) Effects of forest conversion on soil labile organic carbon fractions and aggregate stability in subtropical China. Plant Soil 323:153–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Yu ZP, Huang ZQ, Wang MH, Liu RQ, Zheng LJ, Wan XH, Hu ZH, Davis MR, Lin TC (2015) Nitrogen addition enhances home-field advantage during litter decomposition in subtropical forest plantations. Soil Biol Biochem 90:188–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory for Subtropical Mountain Ecology (Ministry of Science and Technology and Fujian Province Funded), College of Geographical ScienceFujian Normal UniversityFuzhouChina
  2. 2.Institute of Geography SciencesFujian Normal UniversityFuzhouChina
  3. 3.Earth Systems Research CenterUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Department of GeographyMinjiang UniversityFuzhouChina
  5. 5.Institute of Environmental SciencesKazan Federal UniversityKazanRussia
  6. 6.Soil Science ConsultingGöttingenGermany
  7. 7.Agro-Technology InstituteRUDN UniversityMoscowRussia

Personalised recommendations