The role of tree species and soil moisture in soil organic matter stabilization and destabilization

Monday, 15 December 2014
Jeff A Hatten1, Janet Dewey2, Scott Roberts3, Karen McNeal4 and Andrew Shaman3, (1)Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, United States, (2)University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, United States, (3)Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS, United States, (4)North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, NC, United States
Inputs of labile organic substrates to soils are commonly associated with elevated soil organic carbon mineralization rates; this process is known as the priming effect. Plant presence and soil conditions (i.e. water regime, nutrient status) are known to be interacting factors governing priming. In this study, we examine the role of differing species, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) and nuttall oak (Quercus texana B.), and moisture regimes (low and high) upon the soil priming effect in a fine textured soil. We explore whether there is depletion of original soil carbon and concurrent replacement through addition of fresh organic matter from the planted tree species. By employing a series of planted and plant-free pots in a greenhouse mesocosm study, we were able to characterize the composition of soil organic matter and its carbon with the use of CuO oxidation products (e.g. lignin, cutin/suberin biomarkers). Carbon was elevated on the low moisture samples relative to all other treatments, and the C:N ratio suggests that newly produced plant carbon replaced original soil carbon. The soil lignin content of the planted treatments was lower than the plant-free treatments suggesting that lignin present in the original soil may have been preferentially degraded by priming and not replaced. We will discuss the utility of CuO oxidation products to explore soil organic carbon dynamics and the implications of understanding the role of species and soil moisture in predicting the response of soil carbon to land use and climate change.