Segura JH, Nilsson MB, Haei M, Sparrman T, Mikkola JP, Gräsvik J, Schleucher J, Öquist MG
Nat Commun 8 (1) 1154 [2017-10-27; online 2017-10-27]
High-latitude soils store ~40% of the global soil carbon and experience winters of up to 6 months or more. The winter soil CO2 efflux importantly contributes to the annual CO2 budget. Microorganisms can metabolize short chain carbon compounds in frozen soils. However, soil organic matter (SOM) is dominated by biopolymers, requiring exoenzymatic hydrolysis prior to mineralization. For winter SOM decomposition to have a substantial influence on soil carbon balances it is crucial whether or not biopolymers can be metabolized in frozen soils. We added 13C-labeled cellulose to frozen (-4 °C) mesocosms of boreal forest soil and followed its decomposition. Here we show that cellulose biopolymers are hydrolyzed under frozen conditions sustaining both CO2 production and microbial growth contributing to slow, but persistent, SOM mineralization. Given the long periods with frozen soils at high latitudes these findings are essential for understanding the contribution from winter to the global carbon balance.