Decadal-scale litter manipulation alters the biochemical and physical character of tropical forest soil carbon

Halterman, SM 
Tanner, EVJ 
Wright, SJ 

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© 2018 Elsevier Ltd Climate change and rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations are likely to alter tropical forest net primary productivity (NPP), potentially affecting soil C storage. We examined biochemical and physical changes in soil C fractions in a humid tropical forest where experimental litter manipulation changed total soil C stocks. We hypothesized that: (1.) low-density soil organic C (SOC) fractions are more responsive to altered litter inputs than mineral-associated SOC, because they cycle relatively rapidly. (2.) Any accumulation of mineral-associated SOC with litter addition is relatively stable (i.e. low leaching potential). (3.) Certain biomolecules, such as waxes (alkyl) and proteins (N-alkyl), form more stable mineral-associations than other biomolecules in strongly weathered soils. A decade of litter addition and removal affected bulk soil C content in the upper 5 cm by +32% and −31%, respectively. Most notably, C concentration in the mineral-associated SOC fraction was greater in litter addition plots relative to controls by 18% and 28% in the dry and wet seasons, respectively, accounting for the majority of greater bulk soil C stock. Radiocarbon and leaching analyses demonstrated that the greater mineral-associated SOC in litter addition plots consisted of new and relatively stable C, with only 3% of mineral-associated SOC leachable in salt solution. Solid-state13C NMR spectroscopy indicated that waxes (alkyl C) and microbial biomass compounds (O-alkyl and N-alkyl C) in mineral-associated SOC are relatively stable, whereas plant-derived compounds (aromatic and phenolic C) are lost from mineral associations on decadal timescales. We conclude that changes in tropical forest NPP will alter the quantity, biochemistry, and stability of C stored in strongly weathered tropical soils.

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Soil organic matter (SOM), Nitrogen, Dissolved organic carbon (DOC), C-13 NMR, Radiocarbon C-14, Density fractionation
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Soil Biology and Biochemistry
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Elsevier BV