Refractory organic carbon in particle-size fractions of arable soils II: Organic carbon in relation to mineral surface area and iron oxides in fractions < 6 μm

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Abstract

The interaction of organic compounds with the mineral phase is considered as one stabilization mechanism for organic carbon (OC) in soils. The objective of this study is to assess the role of mineral surfaces for the long-term stabilization of OC in arable soils, with special emphasis on iron oxides. Soil samples were taken from two contrasting treatment types, i.e. fertilized plots and C-depleted plots, in long-term agroecosystem experiments. The soil organic carbon pool of the C-depleted plots is considered to show a lower contribution of labile compounds and consequently to be relatively enriched in refractory compounds compared with the fertilized counterparts. In fractions <6 μm, OC was studied in relation to total mineral surface area, surface area contributed by oxides and silicates, and the content and type of iron oxides (dithionite and oxalate extractable iron, Fed and Feo). In two sandy soils, OC contents were linearly related to total mineral surface area and the content of the two iron oxide fractions (Fed and Fe o). The surface area developed by the silicates was low and thus the surface area contribution from oxides was dominant in fractions <6 μm. In contrast to the sandy soils, in a loamy soil OC was not correlated with surface area or the iron oxide content. However, the different soils agreed with respect to the behavior of C in density fractions: losses of OC occurred mainly from the light fraction ≤2 g cm-3), whereas C in the heavy fraction (>2 g cm~3) proved to be stable. For the sandy soils, mineral surface area appears to control the storage of OC in fine fractions. Given the dominant surface area contribution from oxides, OC storage here primarily depends on the oxides. The C-depleted plots in particular show that surface area controls the accumulation of refractory C. The interaction of organic compounds with the mineral phase, mainly with the surface of oxides, seems to be a major mechanism for the long-term stabilization of OC in these sandy soils. An interaction with minerals seems to be important for stabilizing OC also in the loamy soil, although this is not reflected by a proportional relation between OC and surface area across the fractions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1699-1713
Number of pages15
JournalOrganic Geochemistry
Volume33
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - 2002

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