Recent Photosynthates Are the Primary Carbon Source for Soil Microbial Respiration in Subtropical Forests

Zhijie Yang, Teng Chiu Lin, Lixin Wang, Shidong Chen, Xiaofei Liu, Decheng Xiong, Chao Xu, Mary Arthur, Rebecca McCulley, Sihong Shi, Yusheng Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Tropical and subtropical forests represent the largest terrestrial carbon pool. Elucidating the carbon sources for soil microbial respiration (Rm) in tropical and subtropical forests is of fundamental importance to the global carbon cycle in a warming world. Based on hourly measurements, we quantified Rm of in situ forest soil and soil cores from a subtropical forest. We found recent photosynthates, not soil organic carbon (SOC), contributed 88% ± 12% of the carbon source fueling Rm. The control of recent photosynthates on Rm is also supported by the close relationship between Rm and photosynthetically active radiation as well as literature data synthesis results. These results challenge conventional models based on the tenet that Rm is mainly regulated by soil temperature in all forest ecosystems. The results imply that the widely observed warming-induced Rm increases are largely explained by the enhanced input of recent photosynthates in tropical forests, not SOC consumption.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022GL101147
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 28 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


  • photosynthetically active radiation
  • recent photosynthates
  • soil microbial respiration
  • soil organic carbon
  • subtropical forest
  • wavelet analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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