Reduced feeding activity of soil detritivores under warmer and drier conditions

Madhav P. Thakur, Peter B. Reich, Sarah E. Hobbie, Artur Stefanski, Roy Rich, Karen E. Rice, William C. Eddy, Nico Eisenhauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Anthropogenic warming is projected to trigger positive feedbacks to climate by enhancing carbon losses from the soil 1 . While such losses are, in part, due to increased decomposition of organic matter by invertebrate detritivores, it is unknown how detritivore feeding activity will change with warming 2, especially under drought conditions. Here, using four-year manipulation experiments in two North American boreal forests, we investigate how temperature (ambient, ambient + 1.7 °C and ambient + 3.4 °C) and rainfall (ambient and -40% of the summer precipitation) perturbations influence detritivore feeding activity. In contrast to general expectations 1,3, warming had negligible net effects on detritivore feeding activity at ambient precipitation. However, when combined with precipitation reductions, warming decreased feeding activity by ~14%. Across all plots and dates, detritivore feeding activity was positively associated with bulk soil microbial respiration. These results suggest slower rates of decomposition of soil organic matter and thus reduced positive feedbacks to climate under anthropogenic climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-78
Number of pages4
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge several interns who spent innumerable hours in the field assessing bait lamina strips. We are thankful to S. Zieger and J. Siebert for providing the images of detritivores and bait lamina strips, respectively. M.P.T. and N.E. acknowledge funding by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft in the frame of the Emmy Noether research group (Ei 862/2). This project also received support from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement number 677232). Further support came from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research Halle–Jena–Leipzig, funded by the German Research Foundation (FZT 118). The B4WarmED project is funded by the US Department of Energy (Grant number DE-FG02-07ER64456) and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author (s) 2017, under exclusive licence to Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature.


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