Towards a representation of priming on soil carbon decomposition in the global land biosphere model ORCHIDEE (version 184.108.40.206)
Abstract. Priming of soil carbon decomposition encompasses different processes through which the decomposition of native (already present) soil organic matter is amplified through the addition of new organic matter, with new inputs typically being more labile than the native soil organic matter. Evidence for priming comes from laboratory and field experiments, but to date there is no estimate of its impact at global scale and under the current anthropogenic perturbation of the carbon cycle. Current soil carbon decomposition models do not include priming mechanisms, thereby introducing uncertainty when extrapolating short-term local observations to ecosystem and regional to global scale. In this study we present a simple conceptual model of decomposition priming, called PRIM, able to reproduce laboratory (incubation) and field (litter manipulation) priming experiments. Parameters for this model were first optimized against data from 20 soil incubation experiments using a Bayesian framework. The optimized parameter values were evaluated against another set of soil incubation data independent from the ones used for calibration and the PRIM model reproduced the soil incubations data better than the original, CENTURY-type soil decomposition model, whose decomposition equations are based only on first-order kinetics. We then compared the PRIM model and the standard first-order decay model incorporated into the global land biosphere model ORCHIDEE (Organising Carbon and Hydrology In Dynamic Ecosystems). A test of both models was performed at ecosystem scale using litter manipulation experiments from five sites. Although both versions were equally able to reproduce observed decay rates of litter, only ORCHIDEE–PRIM could simulate the observed priming (R2 = 0.54) in cases where litter was added or removed. This result suggests that a conceptually simple and numerically tractable representation of priming adapted to global models is able to capture the sign and magnitude of the priming of litter and soil organic matter.