Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2016, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (6): 620-630.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2015.0449

• Reviews • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Responses and regulation mechanisms of microbial decomposers to substrate carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus stoichiometry

Zheng-Hu ZHOU, Chuan-Kuan WANG*()   

  1. Center for Ecological Research, Northeast Forestry University, Harbin 150040, China
  • Received:2015-12-07 Accepted:2016-03-26 Online:2016-06-30 Published:2016-06-15
  • Contact: Chuan-Kuan WANG


The survival and growth strategies, community structure and functions of microbial decomposers vary with substrate stoichiometry, which profoundly influences substrate decomposition, turnover, and hence the carbon and nutrient cycles of terrestrial ecosystems. It is crucial to understand the relationships among microbial metabolism, community structure and ecosystem processes of terrestrial ecosystems and their responses and feedbacks to global changes. In this review, we first introduced the significance of microbial decomposers in the carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycles of terrestrial ecosystems from perspectives of ecological stoichiometry and metabolic theories. Then we synthesized four potential mechanisms of microbial response and control on substrate stoichiometric variations, i.e., through (1) modifying microbial stoichiometry, (2) shifting microbial community structure, (3) producing extracellular enzymes to acquire limiting resources, and (4) changing microbial carbon, nitrogen, and phosphor use efficiencies. Finally, we proposed three research directions in this field: (1) to comprehensively explore various microbial mechanisms in response to changes in substrate stoichiometry and the relative importance of these mechanisms; (2) to examine influences of global changes on microbial-driven cycles of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus; and (3) to explore spatiotemporal changes in the strategies of microbial adaptation to changes in the substrate stoichiometry.

Key words: ecological stoichiometry, soil microbes, enzymes, biogeochemical cycle, homeostasis, carbon use efficiency, nutrient use efficiency