Factors regulating carbon mineralization in the surface and subsurface soils of Pyrenean mountain grasslands

Jordi Garcia-Pausas, Pere Casals, Lluís Camarero, Carme Huguet, Roy Thompson, Maria Teresa Sebastià, Joan Romanyà

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40 Scopus citations


Although a large amount of soil carbon (C) is stored in subsurface soils, most studies on soil C dynamics focus on the upper layers. The aim of this study is to assess the factors that regulate C mineralization in mountain grassland soils under standard laboratory conditions to compare regulation mechanisms at surface and subsurface horizons. For this purpose soil samples of surface and subsurface horizons from 35 locations were incubated under laboratory conditions, CO2 efflux rates were measured and microbial biomass C (MBC) and net N mineralization were determined. We also analysed the samples for pH, extractable C after fumigation (Cfe), potentially mineralizable N (PMN), reactive and non-reactive P, sum of exchangeable bases and clay content in order to assess the influence of soil characteristics on C mineralization. The influence of climate of each site on soil C mineralization under the same laboratory conditions was also explored for surface and subsurface horizons. C mineralization in surface horizons related positively with Cfe content, suggesting that microbial activity in this horizon was mainly regulated by the availability of C. By contrast, in subsurface horizons, C mineralization related with PMN and was independent of measured C fractions, suggesting that microbial activity in subsurface horizons was limited by the availability of N and that the available forms of C were more stable in these horizons. The effects of local climate on laboratory C mineralization were significant in both soil horizons, with lower rates of C mineralization being recorded in soils from wetter and warmer sites. This fact, suggested that the C stabilisation mechanisms in mountain grassland soils may be affected by the climate in which soils develop.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2803-2810
Number of pages8
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was partially funded by the European Commission (EMERGE and CarboEurope-IP projects), by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Education (CARBOPAS and Agroeco projects) and INIA (Balangeis project). CEAM is financially supported by Generalitat Valenciana and Bancaixa. This study is a result of the activities of the Pyrenean Limnological Observatory of Global Change, a joint initiative of the Center for Advanced Studies-CSIC and the Center for High Mountain Research, University of Barcelona. We also thank to Pere Rovira and an anonymous reviewer for their useful comments on the manuscript.

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Carbon mineralization
  • Climate
  • Microbial biomass carbon
  • Mountain grasslands
  • Net nitrogen mineralization
  • Potentially mineralizable nitrogen
  • Soil properties
  • Surface and subsurface horizons

Continental Scientific Drilling Facility tags

  • ESP

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