Pyrogenic and Fresh Organic Matter Effects on Soil Microbial Communities

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Thea Whitman, Daniel H Buckley and Johannes Lehmann, Cornell University, Crop & Soil Sciences, Ithaca, NY, United States
Soils hold a globally important stock of carbon (C) and can act as both a C source and sink, depending on management and environmental conditions. Pyrogenic organic matter (PyOM) is produced naturally during fires, and contains relatively stable forms of C. Its intentional production has also been proposed as a mechanism for C management (in such cases PyOM is often referred to as “biochar”). However, the impact of natural or anthropogenic PyOM production on soils is complex and depends on many factors. In particular, PyOM additions to soils may have effects on plant growth and on native soil C cycling. The response of the soil microbial community to PyOM additions is likely key to understanding these interactions, but remains poorly characterized. We studied soil C dynamics and soil microbial communities in a field study with 350°C PyOM from 13C-labelled corn stover, a C3-derived soil, and C4 plants (sudangrass). PyOM additions only temporarily increased total soil CO2 fluxes, dramatically less than the increase associated with the addition of corn stover, which likely increased SOC losses. We used high-throughput sequencing of the 16S region on the MiSeq platform to characterize the initial, 12-day and 82-day soil bacterial communiities. We used three-part stable isotopic partitioning after two months to distinguish 334% higher root-derived CO2 fluxes in the plots with PyOM additions than those without, and 45% lower PyOM-C derived CO2 fluxes in the plots with plants present. The 84% increase in estimated cumulative soil CO2 emissions with stover additions was accompanied by a significant shift in the soil bacterial community on days 12 and 82, while the PyOM additions only resulted in significant changes to the overall community on day 82. We investigate which taxa are driving these community shifts, and how they may relate to the soil CO2 fluxes.