Melanin mitigates the accelerated decay of mycorrhizal necromass with peatland warming

Christopher W. Fernandez, Katherine Heckman, Randall Kolka, Peter G. Kennedy

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter/Newsletterpeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Despite being a significant input into soil carbon pools of many high-latitude ecosystems, little is known about the effects of climate change on the turnover of mycorrhizal fungal necromass. Here, we present results from the first experiment examining the effects of climate change on the long-term decomposition of mycorrhizal necromass, utilising the Spruce and Peatland Response Under Changing Environments (SPRUCE) experiment. Warming significantly increased necromass decomposition rates but was strongest in normally submerged microsites where warming caused water table drawdown. Necromass chemistry exerted the strongest control on the decomposition, with initial nitrogen content strongly predicting early decay rates (3 months) and initial melanin content determining mass remaining after 2 years. Collectively, our results suggest that as global temperatures rise, variation in species biochemical traits as well as microsites where mycorrhizal necromass is deposited will determine how these important inputs contribute to the belowground storage of carbon in boreal peatlands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)498-505
Number of pages8
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Bog microtopography
  • carbon cycling
  • decomposition
  • microbial residues
  • nitrogen cycling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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