Soil Inorganic Carbon Formation: Can Parent Material Overcome Climate?

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Christopher Stanbery1, Ryan M Will2, Mark S Seyfried3, Shawn G Benner1, Alejandro N Flores1, James Guilinger1, Kathleen A Lohse4, Alison Good1, Cody Black1 and Jennifer L Pierce1, (1)Boise State University, Boise, ID, United States, (2)Boise State University, Boise, United States, (3)US Dept Agr ARS, Boise, ID, United States, (4)Idaho State University, Biological Sciences, Pocatello, ID, United States
Soil carbon is the third largest carbon reservoir and is composed of both organic and inorganic constituents. However, the storage and flux of soil carbon within the global carbon cycle are not fully understood. While organic carbon is often the focus of research, the factors controlling the formation and dissolution of soil inorganic carbon (SIC) are complex.

Climate is largely accepted as the primary control on SIC, but the effects of soil parent material are less clear. We hypothesize that effects of parent material are significant and that SIC accumulation will be greater in soils formed from basalts than granites due to the finer textured soils and more abundant calcium and magnesium cations.

This research is being conducted in the Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed (RCEW) in southwestern Idaho. The watershed is an ideal location because it has a range of gradients in precipitation (250 mm to 1200 mm), ecology (sagebrush steppe to juniper), and parent materials (a wide array of igneous and sedimentary rock types) over a relatively small area. Approximately 20 soil profiles will be excavated throughout the watershed and will capture the effects of differing precipitation amounts and parent material on soil characteristics. Several samples at each site will be collected for analysis of SIC content and grain size distribution using a pressure calcimeter and hydrometers, respectively.

Initial field data suggests that soils formed over basalts have a higher concentration of SIC than those on granitic material. If precipitation is the only control on SIC, we would expect to see comparable amounts in soils formed on both rock types within the same precipitation zone. However, field observations suggest that for all but the driest sites, soils formed over granite had no SIC detected while basalt soils with comparable precipitation had measurable amounts of SIC. Grain size distribution appears to be a large control on SIC as the sandier, granitic soils promote deeper percolation.

This ongoing research will clarify the processes involved in SIC formation and identify the situations where it is an atmospheric source or sink.