Nitrogen enrichment impacts on boreal litter decomposition are driven by changes in soil microbiota rather than litter quality
Sci Rep. 2017, 7(1):4083
Maaroufi NI, Nordin A, Palmqvist K, Gundale MJ

Abstract
In nitrogen (N) limited boreal forests, N enrichment can impact litter decomposition by affecting litter quality and by changing the soil environment where litter decomposes. We investigated the importance of litter quality and soil factors on litter decomposition using a 2-year reciprocal transplant experiment for Picea abies needle litter, derived from plots subjected to 17 years of N addition, including control, low and high N treatments (ambient, 12.5 and 50 kg N ha-1 yr-1, respectively). Our data show that changes in soil factors were the main pathway through which N impacted litter decomposition, with rates reduced by ~15% when placed in high N relative to control plots, regardless of litter origin. Litter decomposition was correlated to soil microbiota, with Picea abies litter decomposition positively correlated with gram negative and fungal functional groups. Our results suggest that previous findings of increase soil C accumulation in response to N deposition is likely to occur as a result of changes in soil microbiota rather than altered litter quality.

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