- Stabilization of dissolved organic matter by aluminium: A toxic effect or stabilization through precipitation?
- European Journal of Soil Science
- Volume | Issue number
- 59 | 6
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Carbon mineralization in acidic forest soils can be retarded by large concentrations of aluminium (Al). However, it is still unclear whether Al reduces C mineralization by direct toxicity to microorganisms or by decreased bioavailability of organic matter (OM) because dissolved organic matter (DOM) is precipitated by Al. We conducted an incubation experiment (6 weeks) with two DOM solutions (40 mg C litre−1) derived from two acidic forests and possessing large differences in composition. Aluminium was added to the solutions in realistic ranges for acidic soils (1.6-24 mg Al litre−1) at pHs of 3.8 and 4.5, to achieve differences in Al speciation. We determined different Al species, including the potentially toxic Al3+, by Diffusive Gradients in Thin Films (DGT) to evaluate toxic effects on microorganisms. Precipitation of OM increased with larger amounts of added Al and higher pH, and we measured a larger fraction of dissolved 'free' Al at pH 3.8 than at pH 4.5. Organic matter degradation decreased significantly with Al addition, and we found more organic matter degraded at pH 3.8 than at pH 4.5 for the respective Al additions. Consequently, the observed reduction in OM degradation (i.e. stabilization) cannot be explained by toxic effects of 'free' Al. However, C stabilization correlated significantly with C precipitation. The pH did not influence C stabilization directly, but determined the amount of C being precipitated. Phosphorus was removed along with OM by precipitation, which possibly also affected C stabilization. We conclude that C stabilization upon Al addition did not result from toxic effects, but was caused by reduced bioavailability of OM after its precipitation. The reduction in OM degradation by 65% is of great relevance for the overall C stabilization in acidic forest soils. Increasing pH and decreasing Al concentrations upon recovery from acidic deposition should therefore not result in decreased stabilization of precipitated OM.
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