- Biogeochemistry of paddy soils
- Volume | Issue number
- 157 | 1-2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Paddy soils make up the largest anthropogenic wetlands on earth. They may originate from any type of soil in pedological terms, but are highly modified by anthropogenic activities. The formation of these Anthrosols is induced by tilling the wet soil (puddling), and the flooding and drainage regime associated with the development of a plough pan and specific redoximorphic features. Redox potential oscillations due to paddy management control microbial community structure and function and thus short-term biogeochemical processes. After flooding, microbial reduction processes sequentially use NO3−, Mn4+, Fe3+, SO42− as electron acceptors, accompanied by the emission of the trace gases N2O, N2, H2S, CH4 and — due to reduction-induced increasing pH — NH3. This results in N losses and low N fertilizer use efficiency. However, transport of atmospheric O2 to the roots via the rice plant's aerenchyma modifies conditions in the rhizosphere, leading to nitrification and methane oxidation, and precipitation of Mn and Fe oxides. High concentrations and fluxes of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in paddy soils from plant debris trigger microbial activity and thus the emission of greenhouse gases. Retention of DOM by soil minerals and its subsequent stabilisation against microbial decay depend on the redox state (e.g. DOM precipitation by Fe2+ under anaerobic conditions). Oscillation in redox conditions may enhance retention and stabilisation of DOM by Fe oxyhydroxides.
Induced by the periodic short-term redox cycles, paddy management over long periods has strong effects on long-term biogeochemical processes. Frequent irrigation intensifies mineral weathering and leaching processes. High concentrations of DOM during flooding seasons enhance the changes and the release of structural iron in clay minerals, and support the formation of ferrihydrite. Repeated redox alternations lead to a translocation of iron in various directions, and particularly increase the crystallinity of iron oxides. This results also in higher total iron oxide contents in paddy compared to non-paddy soils.
The large accumulation of soil organic matter (SOM) observed in some, but not all paddy soils, is considered to be due to high input of plant residues and charred material associated with retarded decomposition under anaerobic conditions. There is also evidence of SOM stabilisation via occlusion into aggregates and phytoliths as well as interactions with clay minerals and iron oxides. SOM accumulation in paddy subsoils can be explained by downward movement of DOM and its stabilisation by interaction with iron oxides. A specific feature of paddy soils is the coupling of organic matter turnover with mineral transformations and fluxes, which seem to be intensified by the alternating redox conditions with increasing age of paddy soil development. Bioavailability of soil organic N is strongly coupled to SOM cycling and is a crucial parameter determining crop yield. Anaerobic conditions inhibit N mineralization, with a high risk of gaseous N losses. In paddy soils the management-induced, microbially mediated redox processes control the dynamics of soil minerals and soil organic matter, which are strongly related to the microbial accessibility of C and N, but also of Fe.
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