Representing life in the Earth system with soil microbial functional traits in the MIMICS model Journal Article uri icon



  • Abstract. Projecting biogeochemical responses to global environmental change requires multi-scaled perspectives that consider organismal diversity, ecosystem processes and global fluxes. However, microbes, the drivers of soil organic matter decomposition and stabilization, remain notably absent from models used to project carbon cycle–climate feedbacks. We used a microbial trait-based soil carbon (C) model, with two physiologically distinct microbial communities to improve current estimates of soil C storage and their likely response to perturbations. Drawing from the application of functional traits used to model other ecosystems, we incorporate copiotrophic and oligotrophic microbial functional groups in the MIcrobial-MIneral Carbon Stabilization (MIMICS) model, which incorporates oligotrophic and copiotrophic functional groups, akin to "gleaner" vs. "opportunist" plankton in the ocean, or r vs. K strategists in plant and animals communities. Here we compare MIMICS to a conventional soil C model, DAYCENT, in cross-site comparisons of nitrogen (N) enrichment effects on soil C dynamics. MIMICS more accurately simulates C responses to N enrichment; moreover, it raises important hypotheses involving the roles of substrate availability, community-level enzyme induction, and microbial physiological responses in explaining various soil biogeochemical responses to N enrichment. In global-scale analyses, we show that current projections from Earth system models likely overestimate the strength of the land C sink in response to increasing C inputs with elevated carbon dioxide (CO2). Our findings illustrate that tradeoffs between theory and utility can be overcome to develop soil biogeochemistry models that evaluate and advance our theoretical understanding of microbial dynamics and soil biogeochemical responses to environmental change.;

publication date

  • February 25, 2015

has restriction

  • green

Date in CU Experts

  • November 7, 2020 12:03 PM

Full Author List

  • Wieder WR; Grandy AS; Kallenbach CM; Taylor PG; Bonan GB

author count

  • 5

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