Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2018, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (1): 116-125.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2017.0297

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effects of short-term experimental warming on soil microbes in a typical alpine steppe

WANG Jun1,2,WANG Guan-Qin1,2,LI Fei1,2,PENG Yun-Feng1,YANG Gui-Biao1,2,YU Jian-Chun1,2,ZHOU Guo-Ying3,YANG Yuan-He1,2,*()   

  1. 1 State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China

    2 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China

    3 Key Laboratory of Tibetan Medicine Research, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810008, China
  • Online:2018-03-08 Published:2018-01-20
  • Contact: Yuan-He YANG
  • Supported by:
    Supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China(31670482)


Aims Soil microbe plays key role in mediating terrestrial carbon cycles. It has been suggested that climate warming may affect the microbial community, which may accelerate carbon release and induce a positive feedback to soil climate warming. However, there is still controversy on how microbial community responds to experimental warming, especially in cold and drought environment.

Methods We conducted an open top chambers (OTCs) experiment to explore the effects of warming on soil microbial community in an alpine steppe on Qinghai-Xizang Plateau. During the maximum of the growing seasons (August) of 2015 and 2016, we monitored the biomass and structure of soil microbial community in warming and control plots using phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) as biomarkers.

Important findings Short-term warming treatment significantly increased the soil temperature by 1.6 and 1.6 oC and decreased soil moisture by 3.4% and 2.4% (volume fraction) respectively, but did not alter either soil properties or normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) during the growing season (from May to October) in 2015 and 2016. During the maximum of growing seasons (August) of 2015 and 2016, the magnitude of microbial biomass carbon (MBC) were 749.0 and 844.3 mg·kg-1, microbial biomass nitrogen (MBN) were 43.1 and 102.1 mg·kg-1, and the microbial biomass C:N ranged between 17.9 and 8.4. Moreover, all three showed no significant differences between warming and control treatments. The abundance of bacteria was the most in microbial community, while arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi was the least, and warming treatment did not alter the abundance of different microbial group and the microbial community structure. Nonetheless, our result revealed that warming-induced changes in MBC had significant positive correlation with changes in soil temperature and soil moisture. These patterns indicate that, microbial community in this alpine steppe may not respond substantially to future climate warming due to the limitation of soil drought. Therefore, estimation of microbial community response to climate change calls for consideration on the combined effect of warming and drought.

Key words: climate warming, phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA), microbial community, Qinghai-Xizang Plateau, alpine steppe

Table 1

Short-term warming effects on soil physicochemical properties and standing vegetation"

Soil factors
2015年 2016年
对照 Control 增温 Warming 对照 Control 增温 Warming
土壤温度 Soil temperature (℃) 12.80 ± 0.30 14.40 ± 0.20** 13.90 ± 0.20 15.40 ± 0.30**
土壤含水量(体积分数) Soil moisture (volume fraction) 13.20 ± 1.80 9.80 ± 1.10** 15.60 ± 1.80 13.30 ± 1.20*
有机碳含量 Soil organic carbon content (%) 3.20 ± 0.20 3.20 ± 0.20 3.30 ± 0.10 3.32 ± 0.10
总碳含量 Total carbon content (%) 4.50 ± 0.20 4.40 ± 0.20 4.20 ± 0.10 4.50 ± 0.10
全氮含量 Total nitrogen content (%) 0.38 ± 0.02 0.38 ± 0.02 0.38 ± 0.01 0.38 ± 0.01
碳氮比 8.50 ± 0.20 8.60 ± 0.20 8.70 ± 0.20 8.80 ± 0.20
归一化植被指数 Normalized difference vegetation index 0.27 ± 0.01 0.26 ± 0.01 0.18 ± 0.02 0.19 ± 0.02

Fig. 1

Microbial biomass carbon (MBC), microbial biomass nitrogen (MBN), and microbial biomass C:N under control and warming treatment during the growing season (August) in 2015 (A) and 2016 (B), as well as the relationships between MBC and MBN (mean ± SD). The gray bars and cycles represent warming treatments. The white bars and cycles represent control treatments."

Fig. 2

Effects of short-term experimental warming on different soil microbial groups (mean ± SD). A, In 2015. B, In 2016. AMF, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi; G+, gram-positive bacteria; G-, gram-negative bacteria; F/B, ratio of fungi and bacteria; G+/G-, ratio of gram-positive bacteria and gram-negative bacteria; S/M, ratio of saturated PLFAs and monosaturated PLFAs."

Table 2

Results (F values) of two-way ANOVA on the effects of short-term warming (W), sampling date (T), and their interactions (W × T) on microbial community"

微生物群落 Microbial community T W W × T
细菌 Bacteria 159.90** 0.11 4.30*
革兰氏阳性菌 Gram-positive bacteria 173.66** 0.93 2.56
革兰氏阴性菌 Gram-negative bacteria 67.70** 0.00 2.50
丛枝菌根真菌 Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi 7.20* 8.49* 0.03
真菌 Fungi 2.12 0.18 2.13
放线菌 Actinomycetes 24.28** 5.37* 0.02
真菌细菌比 Fungi/Bacteria 123.85** 0.15 0.01
Gram-positive bacteria/Gram-negative bacteria
0.27 0.45 0.28
Saturated PLFAs / Monosaturated PLFAs
7.13* 2.24 0.86
磷脂脂肪酸总量 Total phospholipid fatty acids 157.39** 1.67 1.08

Fig. 3

Effects of short-term experimental warming on soil microbial community structure (mean ± SE). A, In 2015. B, In 2016."

Fig. 4

Redundancy analysis of soil microbial community to soil environmental parameters. AMF, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi; G+, gram-positive bacteria; G-, gram-negative bacteria; F/B, ratio of fungi and bacteria; G+/G-, ratio of gram-positive bacteria and gram-negative bacteria; SM, soil moisture; ST, soil temperature; TN, total nitrogen content."

Fig. 5

Relationships among warming-induced changes (warming-control) in microbial biomass carbon, soil temperature (A) and soil moisture (B), and the effects of short-term warming on soil temperature and moisture."

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