Soil Organic Phosphorus Transformations During Pedogenesis
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- Turner, B.L., Condron, L.M., Richardson, S.J. et al. Ecosystems (2007) 10: 1166. doi:10.1007/s10021-007-9086-z
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Long-term changes in soil phosphorus influence ecosystem development and lead to a decline in the productivity of forests in undisturbed landscapes. Much of the soil phosphorus occurs in a series of organic compounds that differ in their availability to organisms, but changes in the relative abundance of these compounds during pedogenesis remain unknown. We used alkaline extraction and solution phosphorus-31 nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to assess the chemical nature of soil organic phosphorus along a 120,000-year post-glacial chronosequence at Franz Josef, New Zealand. Inositol phosphates, DNA, phospholipids, and phosphonates accumulated rapidly during the first 500 years of soil development characterized by nitrogen limitation of biological productivity, but then declined slowly to low concentrations in older soils characterized by intense phosphorus limitation. However, the relative contribution of the various compounds to the total organic phosphorus varied along the sequence in dramatic and surprising ways. The proportion of inositol hexakisphosphate, conventionally considered to be relatively recalcitrant in the environment, declined markedly in older soils, apparently due to a corresponding decline in amorphous metal oxides, which weather to crystalline forms during pedogenesis. In contrast, the proportion of DNA, considered relatively bioavailable in soil, increased continually throughout the sequence, due apparently to incorporation within organic structures that provide protection from biological attack. The changes in soil organic phosphorus coincided with marked shifts in plant and microbial communities, suggesting that differences in the forms and bioavailability of soil organic phosphorus have ecological significance. Overall, the results strengthen our understanding of phosphorus transformations during pedogenesis and provide important insight into factors regulating the composition of soil organic phosphorus.