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Microbial necromass carbon and nitrogen persistence are decoupled in agricultural grassland soils

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Article number114
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>13/05/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>Communications Earth and Environment
Issue number1
Number of pages10
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Microbial necromass is an important component of soil organic matter, however its persistence and contribution to soil carbon sequestration are poorly quantified. Here, we investigate the interaction of necromass with soil minerals and compare its persistence to that of plant litter in grassland soils under low- and high-management intensity in northwest England. During a 1-year laboratory-based incubation, we find carbon mineralization rates are higher for plant leaf litter than root litter and necromass, but find no significant difference in carbon persistence after 1 year. During a field experiment, approximately two thirds of isotopically-labelled necromass carbon became mineral-associated within 3 days. Mineral-associated carbon declined more rapidly than nitrogen over 8 months, with the persistence of both enhanced under increased management intensity. We suggest that carbon mineralisation rates are decoupled from carbon persistence and that necromass carbon is less persistent than necromass nitrogen, with agricultural management intensity impacting carbon sequestration in grasslands.