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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  10 Jul 2020

10 Jul 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Age distribution, extractability, and stability of mineral-bound organic carbon in central European soils

Marion Schrumpf1, Klaus Kaiser2, Allegra Mayer3, Günter Hempel4, and Susan Trumbore1 Marion Schrumpf et al.
  • 1Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, D-07745, Germany
  • 2Soil Science and Soil Protection, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle (Saale), 06120, Germany
  • 3Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
  • 4Institute of Physics, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle (Saale), 06120, Germany

Abstract. The largest share of total soil organic carbon (OC) is associated with minerals. The portions and turnover of stable and faster cycling mineral-associated carbon (MOC) as well as the determining factors across different soils and soil depths are still unknown. Bioavailability of MOC is supposedly regulated by desorption but instead, its stability was so far mostly tested by exposure to chemical oxidation. Therefore, we determined the extractability of MOC into a mixture of 0.1 M NaOH and 0.4 M NaF as a measure for maximal potential desorbability, and compared it with maximal potential oxidation in heated H2O2. We selected samples of three soil depth increments (0–5 cm, 10–20 cm, 30–40 cm) of five typical soils of the mid-latitudes, differing contents of clay and pedogenic oxides, and being under different land use. Extracts and residues were analyzed for OC and 14C contents, and further chemically characterized by CPMAS-13C-NMR. We hypothesized NaF-NaOH extraction to remove less and younger MOC than H2O2 oxidation, and extractable MOC to be less and relatively older in subsoils and soils with high contents of pedogenic oxides.

A surprisingly constant portion of 58 ± 11 % (standard deviation) of MOC was extractable across soils, independent of depths, mineral assemblage, or land use. NMR spectra revealed strong similarities of the extracted organic matter, with more than 80 % of OC in the O/N alkyl and alkyl C region. Total MOC amounts were linked to the content of pedogenic oxides across sites, independent of variations in total clay. The uniform MOC desorption could therefore be the result of pedogenic oxides dominating the overall response of MOC to extraction.

While bulk MO14C values suggested differences in OC turnover between sites, these were not linked to differences in MOC extractability. As expected, OC contents of residues had smaller 14C contents than extracts, suggesting that non-extractable OC is older. However, 14C contents of extracts and residues were strongly correlated and proportional to bulk MO14C, but not dependent on mineralogy. Also along soil profiles, where increasing MOC ages indicate slower turnover with depth, neither MOC extractability nor differences in 14C between extracts and residues changed. Increasing bonding strength with soil depths did therefore not cause the 14C depth gradients in the studied soils.

Although H2O2 removed 90 ± 8 % of the MOC, the 14C content of the OC removed was similar to that of the NaF-NaOH-extracted OC, while oxidation residues were much more 14C-depleted. Different chemical treatments apparently remove OC of the same continuum, leaving increasingly older residues behind the more OC being removed. Different from the extractions, higher contents of pedogenic oxides seemingly slightly increased the oxidation-resistance of MOC, but this higher H2O2-resistance did not coincide with older MOC or oxidation residues.

Our results indicate that total MOC was dominated by OC interactions with pedogenic oxides rather than clay minerals, so that no difference in MOC extraction in NaF/NaOH, and thus, bond type or strength between clay-rich and poor sites was detectable. This suggests that site-specific differences in MO14C and their depth declines are driven by the accumulation and exchange rates of OC at mineral surfaces. Accordingly, future research on M14OC should focus on soil and ecosystem properties driving dissolved organic matter formation, composition and transport along soil profiles.

Marion Schrumpf et al.

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Marion Schrumpf et al.

Marion Schrumpf et al.


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Short summary
Large amounts of organic carbon (OC) in soil are protected against decay by bonding to minerals. We studied the release of mineral-bonded OC by NaF-NaOH extraction and H2O2 oxidation. Unexpectedly, extraction and oxidation removed mineral-bonded OC at roughly constant portions and of similar age distributions, irrespective of mineral composition, land use, and soil depth. The results suggest uniform modes of interactions between OC and minerals across soils in quasi-steady state with inputs.
Large amounts of organic carbon (OC) in soil are protected against decay by bonding to minerals....