Articles | Volume 8, issue 10
Research article
17 Oct 2011
Research article |  | 17 Oct 2011

Phosphorus transformations as a function of pedogenesis: A synthesis of soil phosphorus data using Hedley fractionation method

X. Yang and W. M. Post

Abstract. In spite of the importance of phosphorus (P) as a limiting nutrient in terrestrial ecosystems, our understanding of terrestrial P dynamics and our ability to model P cycling are hampered by the lack of consistent measurements of soil P. The Hedley fractionation method provides a comprehensive assessment of soil P and has been widely used in recent decades. Here we expand an earlier study that summarized Hedley P data from the literature to create a larger Hedley P database and further investigate the relationships between distributions of different forms of P and the stages of soil development. Our expanded Hedley P database generally supports what the Walker and Syers (1976) conceptual model predicts: the gradual decrease and eventual depletion of primary mineral P (mainly apatite P); the continual increase and eventual dominance of occluded P; and the overall decrease of total P during soil development. However the analysis disagrees with Walker and Syers (1976) in that we found labile inorganic P(Pi) and secondary mineral Pi (non-occluded P in Walker and Syers' model) to be a significant fraction of total P throughout all soil orders with different weathering stages. By analyzing the Hedley-labile P and vegetation P demand, we found that the amount of labile P is much greater than vegetation demand, even in highly weathered soils commonly considered P limited. We conclude that labile P measured by Hedley fractionation method should not be defined as plant available P since most of this labile P likely ends up as immobilized by microbes. Our analysis of the database also shows that carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) in soil organic matter are closely linked in all soil orders, but P is decoupled from C and N in highly weathered soils with larger variations of nitrogen:organic P (N:Po) ratio and higher mean values of N:Po ratio, compared to slightly and intermediately weathered soils.

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