Analysis of Molecular Geochemistry of Soil Organic Matter from 17-year Reciprocal Transplant Experiment in Arid Ecosystem: Simulated Climate Pertubation
Abstract:Successful development of chemical profiles that link soil carbon vulnerability and resilience to climate change would greatly facilitate assessment of soil ecosystems response to global climate change. Additionally these signatures could be used to support the design of sustainable agricultural and food/energy crop security practices. We test this possibility using soils obtained from a 17-year reciprocal soil transplant experiment between two elevations in the arid environment of eastern Washington . 30-cm diameter soil cores were reciprocally transplanted between the upper and lower sites. Cores were also transplanted in place to control for disturbance. Extracted subcores were incubated in environmental chambers and measured microbial respiration revealed statically a significant decrease in respiratory response as a function of temperature in cores transferred from low elevation to high elevation. We use ultra high resolution mass spectrometry to identify thousands of organic molecules and changes in geochemistry that would indicate the vulnerability of the soil ecosystem to climate perturbation. In our experiments we used methanol extraction followed by direct injection to 12 T ESI FT-ICR MS to identify about 4000 of individual compounds in about 200 mg soils at sub ppm mass accuracy. Chemical formulae were assigned to approximately 65% of the measured peaks using a modified Kujawinski pipeline and second order Kendrick transformations  resulted in approximately 75% assigned peaks.
Our preliminary analysis finds that while the bulk C content of soils from the cooler, wetter conditions at the upper elevation is approximately twice that of the warmer, drier conditions at lower elevation, the molecular soil geochemistry is remarkably similar. Detailed analysis reveals subtle differences in the lipid, carbohydrate, and condensed hydrocarbon compositional makeup of the soil. Additionally, of the more than 17,000 individual compounds identified approximately 50% contain N which is atypical geochemistry of soil obtained from other ecosystems.
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