Episodic rewetting enhances carbon and nitrogen release from chaparral soils

Amy E. Miller, Joshua P. Schimel, Thomas Meixner, James O. Sickman, John M. Melack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

322 Scopus citations


The short-term pulse of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) mineralization that accompanies the wetting of dry soils may dominate annual C and N production in many arid and semi-arid environments characterized by seasonal transitions. We used a laboratory incubation to evaluate the impact of short-term fluctuations in soil moisture on long-term carbon and nitrogen dynamics, and the degree to which rewetting enhances C and N release. Following repeated drying and rewetting of chaparral soils, cumulative CO2 release in rewet soils was 2.2-3.7 times greater than from soils maintained at equivalent mean soil moisture and represented 12-18% of the total soil C pool. Rewetting frequency did not affect cumulative CO2 release but did enhance N turnover, and net N mineralization and nitrification increased with rewetting in spite of significant reductions in nitrification potential. Litter addition decreased inorganic N release but enhanced dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from dry soils, indicating the potential importance of a litter-derived pulse to short-term nutrient dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2195-2204
Number of pages10
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2005


  • DOC
  • DON
  • Litter addition
  • Nitrate
  • Nitrification
  • Soil respiration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Soil Science


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