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Ecol Lett. 2008 Nov;11(11):1252-1264. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01245.x. Epub 2008 Sep 25.

Stoichiometry of soil enzyme activity at global scale.

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Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, 87131, USADepartment of Environmental Sciences, University of Toledo, Toledo, OH 43606-3390, USASchool of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85281, USADepartments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697, USADepartment of Natural Resources, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USADepartment of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USADepartment of Biology and the Environmental Science Program, Carthage College, 2001 Alford Park Drive, Kenosha, WI 53140, USADepartment of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, 1987 Upper Buford Circle, St Paul, MN 55108, USADepartment of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USADepartments of Ecology, Evolution & Behavior, Plant Biology and Soil, Water & Climate, University of Minnesota, 1987 Upper Buford Circle, St Paul, MN 55108, USAUnited States Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Rd, MS 962, Menlo Park, CA 94025, USANatural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Campus Delivery 1499, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1499, USASchool of Natural Resources, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1115, USA.


Extracellular enzymes are the proximate agents of organic matter decomposition and measures of these activities can be used as indicators of microbial nutrient demand. We conducted a global-scale meta-analysis of the seven-most widely measured soil enzyme activities, using data from 40 ecosystems. The activities of beta-1,4-glucosidase, cellobiohydrolase, beta-1,4-N-acetylglucosaminidase and phosphatase g(-1) soil increased with organic matter concentration; leucine aminopeptidase, phenol oxidase and peroxidase activities showed no relationship. All activities were significantly related to soil pH. Specific activities, i.e. activity g(-1) soil organic matter, also varied in relation to soil pH for all enzymes. Relationships with mean annual temperature (MAT) and precipitation (MAP) were generally weak. For hydrolases, ratios of specific C, N and P acquisition activities converged on 1 : 1 : 1 but across ecosystems, the ratio of C : P acquisition was inversely related to MAP and MAT while the ratio of C : N acquisition increased with MAP. Oxidative activities were more variable than hydrolytic activities and increased with soil pH. Our analyses indicate that the enzymatic potential for hydrolyzing the labile components of soil organic matter is tied to substrate availability, soil pH and the stoichiometry of microbial nutrient demand. The enzymatic potential for oxidizing the recalcitrant fractions of soil organic material, which is a proximate control on soil organic matter accumulation, is most strongly related to soil pH. These trends provide insight into the biogeochemical processes that create global patterns in ecological stoichiometry and organic matter storage.

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