The Temperature Optima and Temperature Sensitivity of Soil Respiration Explained By Macromolecular Rate Theory (MMRT).

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 8:00 AM
Louis A Schipper, Tanya O'Neill and Vickery L Arcus, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand
One of the most fundamental factors controlling all biological and chemical processes is changing temperature. Temperature dependence was originally described by the Arrhenius function in the 19th century. This function provides an excellent description of chemical reaction rates. However, the Arrhenius function does not predict the temperature optimum of biological rates that is clearly evident in laboratory and field measurements. Previously, the temperature optimum of biological processes has been ascribed to denaturation of enzymes but the observed temperature optima in soil are often rather modest, occurring at about 40-50°C and generally less than recognised temperatures for protein unfolding. We have modified the Arrhenius function incorporating a temperature-dependent activation energy derived directly from first principles from thermodynamics of macromolecules. MacroMolecular Rate Theory (MMRT) accounts for large changes in the flexibility of enzymes during catalysis that result in changes in heat capacity (∆Cp) of the enzyme during the reaction. MMRT predicts an initially Arrhenius-like response followed by a temperature optimum without the need for enzyme denaturation (Hobbs et al., 2013. ACS Chemical Biology. 8: 2388-2393). Denaturation, of course, occurs at much higher temperatures. We have shown that MMRT fits biogeochemical data collected from laboratory and field studies with important implications for changes in absolute temperature sensitivity as temperature rises (Schipper et al., 2014. Global Change Biology). As the temperature optimum is approached the absolute temperature sensitivity of biological processes decreases to zero. Consequently, the absolute temperature-sensitivity of soil biological processes depends on both the change in ecosystem temperature and the temperature optimum of the biological process. MMRT also very clearly explains why Q10 values decline with increasing temperature more quickly than would be predicted from the Arrhenius function. Temperature optima of many soil biological processes including respiration are very poorly documented but would lead to a better understanding of how soil systems will respond to increasing global temperatures.