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Modeling Interactive Effects of Manganese Bioavailability, Nitrogen Deposition, and Warming on Soil Carbon Storage

by Benjamin N Sulman, Elizabeth M Herndon
Publication Type
Journal Name
Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1 to 16

Manganese (Mn) is a redox-active micronutrient that has been shown to accelerate plant litter decomposition; however, the effect of Mn-promoted decomposition on soil C storage is unclear. We present a novel biogeochemical model simulating how Mn bioavailability influences soil organic C (SOC) stocks in a soil profile (<50 cm) within a temperate forest. In our model, foliar Mn increased in response to increasing soluble Mn released through Mn-oxide (birnessite) dissolution in mineral soil layers. The ensuing Mn enrichment in leaf litter redistributed Mn to the surface forest floor layer, promoted enzymatic oxidation of lignin, and decreased SOC stocks. Total SOC loss was partially mitigated by accumulation of lignin-oxidation products as mineral-associated organic C. We also explored how Mn-driven changes to C storage interacted with effects of N deposition and warming. Nitrogen enrichment inhibited Mn-dependent lignin degradation, increasing SOC stocks and weakening their dependence on Mn bioavailability. Warming stimulated decomposition and reduced C stocks but was less effective at low Mn bioavailability. Our model results suggest that SOC stocks are sensitive to Mn bioavailability because increased plant uptake redistributes Mn to surface soils where it can enhance litter decomposition. Based on our simulations, we predict that Mn becomes limiting to litter decomposition where Mn is poorly soluble. Depletion of bioavailable Mn or other cofactors that are critical to decomposition could limit the response of organic C stocks to warming over time, but quantitative projections of the role of Mn bioavailability in regulating decomposition requires additional measurements to constrain model uncertainties.