Using thermal and spectroscopic (XANES) indices to understand the biological stability of soil organic matter.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Adam W Gillespie1, Hamed Sanei2, Amanda Diochon3, Charles Tarnocai4, Henry Janzen5, Tom Z Regier1 and Ed Gregorich4, (1)Canadian Light Source, Saskatoon, SK, Canada, (2)Canadian Geological Survey, Calgary, AB, Canada, (3)Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada, (4)Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa, ON, Canada, (5)Agriculture and Agrifood Canada, Lethbridge, AB, Canada
Soil organic matter (SOM) composition is a key property that underpins ecosystem productivity. Understanding its physical, chemical and biological properties is important for evaluating its role in carbon (C) and nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems. In particular, the stability of SOM (i.e., resistance to microbial degradation) has important implications in ecosystem processes, including nutrient cycling, emission of greenhouse gases from soil, and C sequestration. Thus there is interest in developing new ways to measure and quantify the labile and stable forms of soil organic carbon.

In this presentation, we describe the combined use of thermal decomposition methods based on pyrolysis, and chemical properties using X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS), to describe the stability of soil organic matter. Soils (n=81) for this study were obtained from a wide geographical range and management practices. Controlled respiration studies were conducted on the soils to determine the biodegradability of organic C after 98 days. In the thermal analysis, the sample is subjected to a temperature ramp and pyrolyzed/volatilized organic C was recorded as a function of temperature. Analysis by XAS provided information on the types of C functional groups present in a soil sample. We show that biological stability is well described using a two component model which included thermal stability and C composition chemistry.