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Title: Warming enhances the stimulatory effect of algal exudates on dissolved organic carbon decomposition
Abstract

The current paradigm in peatland ecology is that the organic matter inputs from plant photosynthesis (e.g. moss litter) exceed that of decomposition, tipping the metabolic balance in favour of carbon (C) storage. Here, we investigated an alternative hypothesis, whereby exudates released by microalgae can actually accelerate C losses from the surface waters of northern peatlands by stimulating dissolved organic C (DOC) decomposition in a warmer environment expected with climate change. To test this hypothesis, we evaluated the biodegradability of fenDOCin a factorial design with and without algalDOCin both ambient (15°C) and elevated (20°C) water temperatures during a laboratory bioassay.

WhenDOCsources were evaluated separately, decomposition rates were higher in treatments with algalDOConly than with fenDOConly, indicating that the quality of the organic matter influenced degradability. A mixture of substrates (½ algalDOC + ½ fenDOC) exceeded the expected level of biodegradation (i.e. the average of the individual substrate responses) by as much as 10%, and the magnitude of this effect increased to more than 15% with warming.

Specific ultraviolet absorbance at 254 nm (SUVA254), a proxy for aromatic content, was also significantly higher (i.e. more humic) in the mixture treatment than expected from SUVA254values in single substrate treatments.

Accelerated decomposition in the presence of algalDOCwas coupled with an increase in bacterial biomass, demonstrating that enhanced metabolism was associated with a more abundant microbial community.

These results present an alternative energy pathway for heterotrophic consumers to breakdown organic matter in northern peatlands. Since decomposition in northern peatlands is often limited by the availability of labile organic matter, this mechanism could become increasingly important as a pathway for decomposition in the surface waters of northern peatlands where algae are expected to be more abundant in conditions associated with ongoing climate change.

 
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Award ID(s):
1651195
NSF-PAR ID:
10457143
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley-Blackwell
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Freshwater Biology
Volume:
65
Issue:
7
ISSN:
0046-5070
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 1288-1297
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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Spreadsheet: annual precip_drainage Description: Precipitation measured from nearby Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Weather station, over 2009-2016 study period. Data shown in Figure 1; original data source for precipitation (https://lter.kbs.msu.edu/datatables/7). Drainage estimated from SALUS crop model. Note that drainage is percolation out of the root zone (0-125 cm). Annual precipitation and drainage values shown here are calculated for growing and non-growing crop periods. Variate    Description year    year of the observation crop    “corn” “switchgrass” “miscanthus” “nativegrass” “restored prairie” “poplar” precip_G    precipitation during growing period (milliMeter) precip_NG    precipitation during non-growing period (milliMeter) drainage_G    drainage during growing period (milliMeter) drainage_NG    drainage during non-growing period (milliMeter)      2. Spreadsheet: biomass_corn, perennial grasses Description: Maximum aboveground biomass measurements from corn, switchgrass, miscanthus, native grass and restored prairie plots in Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) Biomass Cropping System Experiment (BCSE) during 2009-2015. Data shown in Figure 2.   Variate    Description year    year of the observation date    day of the observation (mm/dd/yyyy) crop    “corn” “switchgrass” “miscanthus” “nativegrass” “restored prairie” “poplar” replicate    each crop has four replicated plots, R1, R2, R3 and R4 station    stations (S1, S2 and S3) of samplings within the plot. For more details, refer to link (https://data.sustainability.glbrc.org/protocols/156) species    plant species that are rooted within the quadrat during the time of maximum biomass harvest. 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