Heterotrophic soil microbial respiration—one of the main processes of carbon loss from the soil to the atmosphere—is sensitive to temperature in the short term. However, how this sensitivity is affected by long-term thermal regimes is uncertain. There is an expectation that soil microbial respiration rates adapt to the ambient thermal regime, but whether this adaptation magnifies or reduces respiration sensitivities to temperature fluctuations remains unresolved. This gap in understanding is particularly pronounced for drylands because most studies conducted so far have focused on mesic systems. Here, we conduct an incubation study using soil samples from 110 global drylands encompassing a wide gradient in mean annual temperature. We test how mean annual temperature affects soil respiration rates at three assay temperatures while controlling for substrate depletion and microbial biomass. Estimated soil respiration rates at the mean microbial biomass were lower in sites with higher mean annual temperatures across the three assayed temperatures. The patterns observed are consistent with expected evolutionary trade-offs in the structure and function of enzymes under different thermal regimes. Therefore, our results suggest that soil microbial respiration adapts to the ambient thermal regime in global drylands.
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This research was supported by the European Research Council (ERC)-funded projects BIOCOM (ERC grant no. 242658) and BIODESERT (ERC grant no. 647038), and by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (BIOMOD project, grant no. CGL2013-44661-R). M.D. is supported by an FPU fellowship from the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports (ref. FPU-15/00392). P.G.P. acknowledges the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness for financial support via the Juan de la Cierva Program (grant no. IJCI‐2014‐20058). C.P. acknowledges support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant no. 654132. We thank D. Mendoza for her help in the laboratory.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Dacal, M., Bradford, M.A., Plaza, C. et al. Soil microbial respiration adapts to ambient temperature in global drylands. Nat Ecol Evol 3, 232–238 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0770-5
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