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Those who can don’t want to, and those who want to can’t: eco-evolutionary constraints to decomposition explain soil carbon persistence
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  • Mark Bonner,
  • Oskar Franklin,
  • Shun Hasegawa,
  • Torgny Näsholm
Mark Bonner
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Oskar Franklin
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Shun Hasegawa
Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet Fakulteten for Skogsvetenskap
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Torgny Näsholm
Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet Fakulteten for Skogsvetenskap
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Reliable manipulation of soil organic matter (SOM) – a necessity for optimal land management – is constrained by our limited mechanistic understanding of SOM formation. Here we add to existing frameworks a novel mechanistic element that may underpin SOM dynamics, based on evolutionary-ecological rather than chemical or physical limitations to decomposition. We argue that decomposition of some substrates may be ecologically constrained in mycelial fungi, evolutionarily constrained in co-operating bacteria, and geometrically constrained in unicellular microbes. We describe and test a mathematical model based on our framework, providing a proof-of-concept that substrate can plausibly be spared decomposition and accumulate even when it is physically and chemically accessible. Our framework can explain a variety of SOM dynamics, including priming and the suppression of decomposition by nitrogen addition, as well as the typical composition of SOM. An augmented mechanistic framework for understanding SOM dynamics can help guide targeted empirical study, which in turn can contribute to more optimised land management.