- Soil aggregation and the stabilization of organic carbon as affected by erosion and deposition
- Soil Biology and Biochemistry
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
The importance of soil aggregation in determining the dynamics of soil organic carbon (SOC) during erosion, transportation and deposition is poorly understood. Particularly, we do not know how aggregation contributes to the often-observed accumulation of SOC at depositional sites. Our objective was to assess how aggregation affects SOC stabilization in comparison to interactions of SOC with minerals. We determined and compared aggregate size distributions, SOC distribution in density fractions, and ligninderived phenols from aggregated soil samples at both eroding and depositional sites. The stabilization effect of aggregation was quantified by comparing mineralization from intact and crushed macroaggregates. Deposition of eroded soil material resulted in carbon (C) enrichment throughout the soil profile. Both macro-aggregate associated SOC and C associated with minerals (heavy fraction) increased
in their importance from the eroding to the depositional site. In the uppermost topsoil (0e5 cm), SOC mineralization from intact aggregates was larger at the depositional site than at the eroding site, reflecting the large input of labile organic matter (plant residues) promoting aggregation. Contrastingly, in the subsoil, mineralization rates were lower at the depositional site because of effective stabilization by interactions with soil minerals. Aggregate crushing increased SOC mineralization by 10e80% at the eroding site, but not at the depositional site. The content of lignin-derived phenols did not differ between eroding and depositional sites in the topsoil (24.6e30.9 mg per g C) but was larger in the subsoil of the
eroding site, which was accompanied by higher lignin oxidation. Lignin data indicated minor effects of soil erosion and deposition on the composition of SOC. We conclude that SOC is better protected in aggregates at the eroding than at the depositional site. During transport disaggregation and consequently
SOC mineralization took place, while at the depositional site re-aggregation occurred mainly in the form of macro-aggregates. However, this macro-aggregation did not result in a direct stabilization of SOC. We propose that the occlusion of C inside aggregates serves as a pathway for the eroded C to be later stabilized by organo-mineral interaction.
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