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Journal Article

Relative contribution of foliar and fine root pine litter to the molecular composition of soil organic matter after in situ degradation


Gleixner,  G.
Molecular Biogeochemistry Group, Dr. G. Gleixner, Department Biogeochemical Processes, Prof. S. E. Trumbore, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Mambelli, S., Bird, J., Gleixner, G., Dawson, T., & Torn, M. (2011). Relative contribution of foliar and fine root pine litter to the molecular composition of soil organic matter after in situ degradation. Organic Geochemistry, 42(9), 1099-1108. doi:10.1016/j.orggeochem.2011.06.008.

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The influence of litter quality on soil organic matter (SOM) stabilization rate and pathways remains unclear. We used (13)C/(15)N labeled litter addition and Curie-point pyrolysis gas chromatography-mass spectrometry combustion-isotope ratio mass spectrometry (Py-GC-MS-C-IRMS) to explore the transformation of litter with different composition and decay rate (ponderosa pine needle vs. fine root) to SOM during 18 months in a temperate conifer forest mineral (A horizon) soil. Based on (13)C Py-GC-MS-C-IRMS the initial litter and bulk soil had similar to 1/3 of the total pyrolysis products identified in common. The majority was related either to carbohydrates or was non-specific in origin. In bulk soil, carbohydrates had similar levels of enrichment after needle input and fine root input, while the non-specific products were more enriched after needle input. In the humin SOM fraction (260 yr C turnover time) we found only carbohydrate and alkyl C-derived compounds and greater (13)C enrichment in the "carbohydrate" pool after fine root decomposition. (15)N Py-GC-MS-C-IRMS of humic substances showed that root litter contributed more than needle litter to the enrichment of specific protein markers during initial decomposition. We found little evidence for the selective preservation of plant compounds considered to be recalcitrant. Our findings suggest an indirect role for decomposing plant material composition, where microbial alteration of fine root litter seems to favor greater initial stabilization of microbially derived C and N in SOM fractions with long mean turnover times, such as humin, compared to needles with a faster decay rate. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.