Linking Intra-Aggregate Pore Size Distribution with Organic Matter Decomposition Status, Evidence from FTIR and X-Ray Tomography

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 2:25 PM
Ehsan R Toosi, Michelle Quigley and Alexandra N Kravchenko, Michigan State University, Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, East Lansing, MI, United States
It has been reported that conversion of intensively cultivated lands to less disturbed systems enhances soil OM storage capacity, primarily through OM stabilization in macroaggregates. We hypothesized that the potential for OM stabilization inside macro-aggregates is influenced by presence and abundance of intra-aggregate pores. Pores determine microbial access to OM and regulate diffusion of solution/gases within aggregates which drives microbial functioning. We investigated the influence of longterm disturbance intensity on soil OM composition and its relation to pore size distribution within macroaggregates. We used quantitative FTIR to determine OM decomposition status and X-ray micro-tomography to assess pore size distribution in macroaggregates as affected by management and landuse. Macroaggregates 4-6 mm in size where selected from topsoil under long term conventional tillage (CT), cover-crop (CC), and native succession vegetation (NS) treatments at Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan. Comparison of main soil OM functional groups suggested that with increasing disturbance intensity, the proportion of aromatic and carboxylic/carbohydrates associated compounds increased and it was concomitant with a decrease in the proportion of aliphatic associated compounds and lignin derivatives. Further, FTIR-based decomposition indices revealed that overall decomposition status of macroaggregates followed the pattern of CT > CC ≈ NS. X-ray micro-tomography findings suggested that greater OM decomposition within the macroaggregates was associated with i) greater percent of pores >13 micron in size within the aggregates, as well as ii) greater proportion of small to medium pores (13-110 micron). The results develop previous findings, suggesting that shift in landuse or management indirectly affects soil OM stabilization through alteration of pore size distribution within macroaggregates that itself, is coupled with OM decomposition status.