Soil Pore Characteristics, an Underappreciated Regulatory Factor in GHGs Emission and C Stabilization
Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Enduring challenges in understanding soil organic matter (SOM) stability and emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from soil stem from complexities of soil processes, many of which occur at micro-scales. The goal of this study is to evaluate the interactive effects soil pore characteristics, soil moisture levels, inherent SOM levels and properties, and substrate quality, on GHGs emission, and accelerated decomposition of native SOM following addition of fresh substrate i.e. priming. Our core hypothesis is that soil pore characteristics play a major role as a mediator in (i) the decomposition of organic matter regardless of its source (i.e. litter vs. native SOM) or substrate quality, as well as in (ii) GHGs emissions. Samples with prevalence of small (<10 µm) vs. large (>30 µm) pores were prepared from soils with similar properties but under long-term contrasting management. The samples were incubated (110 d) at low and optimum soil moisture conditions after addition of high quality (13C-soybean) and low quality (13C-corn) substrate. Headspace gas was analyzed for 13C-CO2 and GHGs on a regularly basis (day 1, 3, 7, 14, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 90, and 110). Selected samples were scanned at the early stage of decomposition (7, 14, 24 d) at 2-6 µm resolutions using X-ray computed µ tomography in order to: (1) quantify soil pore characteristics; (2) visualize and quantify distribution of soil moisture within samples of different pore characteristics; and (3) to visualize and measure losses of decomposing plant residue. Initial findings indicate that, consistent with our hypotheses, pore characteristics influenced GHGs emission, and intensity and pattern of plant residue decomposition. The importance of pores was highly pronounced in presence of added plant residue where greater N2O emission occurred in samples with dominant large pores, in contrast to CO2. Further findings will be discussed upon completion of the study and analysis of the results.