Ecosystems

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 352–372

The Influence of Nutrient Availability on Soil Organic Matter Turnover Estimated by Incubations and Radiocarbon Modeling

  • Margaret S. Torn
  • Peter M. Vitousek
  • Susan E. Trumbore
Original Articles

Abstract

We investigated the decomposability of soil organic matter (SOM) along a chronosequence of rainforest sites in Hawaii that form a natural fertility gradient and at two long-term fertilization experiments. To estimate turnover times and pool sizes of organic matter, we used two independent methods: (1) long-term incubations and (2) a three-box soil model constrained by radiocarbon measurements. Turnover times of slow-pool SOM (the intermediate pool between active and passive pools) calculated from incubations ranged from 6 to 20 y in the O horizon and were roughly half as fast in the A horizon. The radiocarbon-based model yielded a similar pattern but slower turnover times. The calculation of the 14C turnover times is sensitive to the lag time between photosynthesis and incorporation of organic C into SOM in a given horizon. By either method, turnover times at the different sites varied two- or threefold in soils with the same climate and vegetation community. Turnover times were fastest at the sites of highest soil fertility and were correlated with litter decay rates and primary productivity. However, experimental fertilization at the two least-fertile sites had only a small and inconsistent effect on turnover, with N slowing turnover and P slightly speeding it at one site. These results support studies of litter decomposition in suggesting that while plant productivity can respond rapidly to nutrient additions, decomposition may respond much more slowly to added nutrients.

Keywords

carbon nitrogen phosphorus tropical forest 14microbial biomass decomposition 

References

  1. Anderson, DW 1988The effect of parent material and soil development on nutrient cycling in temperate ecosystemsBiogeochemistry57197Google Scholar
  2. Baisden,  W, Wang, Y, Balser, TC, Amundson, RG 1996Measurement of natural abundance 14C in respired CO2 from laboratory incubations of natural and cultivated grassland soilsBull Ecol Soc Am7721Google Scholar
  3. Balesdent, J, Wagner, GH, Mariotti, A 1988Soil organic matter turnover in long-term field experiments as revealed by carbon-13 natural abundanceSoil Sci Soc Am J52118124Google Scholar
  4. Beck, T, Joergensen, RG, Kandeler, E, Makeschin, F, Nuss, E, Oberholzer, HR, Scheu, S 1997An inter-laboratory comparison of ten different ways of measuring soil microbial biomass CSoil Biol Biochem2910231032CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berg, B 1986Nutrient release from litter and humus in coniferous forest soils—a mini reviewScand J For Res135969Google Scholar
  6. Berg, B 2000Litter decomposition and organic matter turnover in northern forest soilsFor Ecol Manage1331322Google Scholar
  7. Berg, B, Matzner, E 1997Effect of N deposition on decomposition of plant litter and soil organic matter in forest systemsEnviron Rev5125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Berg, B, McClaugherty, CA, Virzo Santo, A, Johansson, M–B, Ekbohm, G 1995Decomposition of litter and soil organic matter—can we distinguish a mechanism for soil organic matter buildup?Scand J For Res1010819Google Scholar
  9. Beyer, L 1991Intersite characterization and variability of soil respiration in different arable and forest soilsBiol Fertil Soils121226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Biederbeck, VO, Janzen, HH, Campbell, CA, Zentner, RP 1994Labile organic matter as influenced by cropping patterns in an arid environmentSoil Bio Biochem26164756CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Binkley, D, Hogberg, P 1997Does atmospheric deposition of nitrogen threaten Swedish forests?For Ecol Manage9211952Google Scholar
  12. Bray, RH, Kurtz, LT 1945Determination of total, organic, and available forms of phosphorus in soilsSoil Sci593945Google Scholar
  13. Brookes, PC, Landman, A, Pruden, G, Jenkinson, DS 1985Chloroform fumigation and the release of soil nitrogen: a rapid direct extraction method to measure microbial biomass nitrogen in soilSoil Biol Biochem1783742CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chadwick, OA, Derry, LA, Vitousek, PM, Huebert, BJ, Hedin, LO 1999Changing sources of nutrients during four million years of ecosystem developmentNature3974917CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chapin, FS,III, Vitousek, PM, VanCleve, K 1986The nature of nutrient limitation in plant communitiesAm Naturalist1274858CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cleveland, C, Townsend, AR, Schmidt, SK 2002Phosphorus limitation of microbial processes in moist tropical forests: Evidence from short-term laboratory incubations and field studiesEcosystems568091Google Scholar
  17. Crews, TE, Kitayama, K, Fownes, JH, Riley, RH, Herbert, DA, Mueller–Dombois, D, Vitousek, PM 1995Changes in soil phosphorus fractions and ecosystem dynamics across a long chronosequence in HawaiiEcology76140724Google Scholar
  18. Jong, E, Schappert, HJV, MacDonald, KB 1974Carbon dioxide evolution from virgin and cultivated soil as affected by management practices and climateCan. J. Soil Sci54299307Google Scholar
  19. Falloon, P, Smith, P, Coleman, K, Marshall, S 1998Estimating the size of the inert organic matter pool from total soil organic carbon content for use in the Rothemsted carbon modelSoil Biol Biochem30120711CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Feng, XH, Peterson, JC, Quideau, SA, Virginia, RA, Graham, RC, Sonder, LJ, Chadwick, OA 1999Distribution, accumulation, and fluxes of soil carbon in four monoculture lysimeters at San Dimas Experimental Forest, CaliforniaGeochim Cosmochim Acta63131933CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fog, K 1988The effect of added nitrogen on the rate of decomposition of organic matterBiol Rev6343362Google Scholar
  22. Gaudinski, J, Trumbore, SE, Davidson, EA, Zheng, SH 2000Soil carbon cycling in a temperate forest: radiocarbon-based estimates of residence times, sequestration rates and partitioning of fluxesBiogeochemistry513369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gupta, SR, Singh, JS 1981Soil respiration in a tropical grasslandSoil Biol Biochem132618CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Harrison, KG 1996Using bulk soil radiocarbon measurements to estimate soil organic matter turnover times: Implications for atmospheric CO2 levelsRadiocarbon3818190Google Scholar
  25. Harrison, KG, Broecker, WS, Bonani, G 1993The effect of changing land use on soil RadiocarbonScience2627259Google Scholar
  26. Harrison, KG, Post, WM, Richter, DD 1995Soil carbon turnover in a recovering temperate forestGlobal Biogeochem Cycles944954CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hassink, J 1994Effect of soil texture on the size of the microbial biomass and on the amount of C and N mineralized per unit of microbial biomass in Dutch grassland soilsSoil Biol Biochem26157382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hattenschwiler, S, Hagerman, AE, Vitousek, PM 2003Polyphenols in litter from tropical montane forests across a wide range in soil fertilityBiogeochemistry64129148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Herbert, D, Fownes, JH 1995Phosphorus limitation of forest leaf area and net primary production on a highly weathered soilBiogeochemistry2922335Google Scholar
  30. Herbert, DA, Fownes, JH 1999Forest productivity and efficiency of resource use across a chronosequence of tropical montane soilsEcosystems224254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hobbie, SE 1992Effects of plant species on nutrient cyclingTrends Ecol Evol73369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hobbie, SE, Vitousek, PM 2000aNutrient limitation of litter decomposition in Hawaiian forestsEcology81186777Google Scholar
  33. Hobbie, SE, Vitousek, PM 2000bNutrient regulation of litter decomposition in Hawaiian forestsEcology81186777Google Scholar
  34. Howard, DM, Howard, PJA 1993Relationships between CO2 evolution, moisture content and temperature for a range of soil typesSoil Biol Biochem25153746CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jenkinson, DS 1990The turnover of organic carbon and nitrogen in soilPhilos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci3293618Google Scholar
  36. Kitayama, K, Mueller–Dombois, D 1995Vegetation changes along gradients of long-term soil development in the Hawaiian montane rainforest zoneVegetatio120120Google Scholar
  37. Kowalenko, CG, Ivarson, KC, Cameron, DR 1978Effect of moisture content, temperature and nitrogen fertilization on carbon dioxide evolution from field soilsSoil Boil. Biochem10417423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Linn, DM, Doran, JW 1984Effect of water-filled pore space on carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide production in tilled and non-tilled soilsSoil Sci Soc Am J48126772Google Scholar
  39. Magill, AH, Aber, JD 1998Long-term effects of experimental nitrogen additions on foliar litter decay and humus formation in forest ecosystemsPlant Soil20330111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McMurtrie, RE, Dewar, RC, Medlyn, BE, Jeffreys, MP 2000Effects of elevated [CO2] on forest growth and carbon storage: A modelling analysis of the consequences of changes in litter quality/quantity and root exudationPlant Soil22413552CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Melillo, JM, Aber, JD, Linkins, AE, Ricca, A, Fry, B, Nadelhoffer, KJ 1989Carbon and nitrogen dynamics along the decay continuum: plant litter to soil organic matterPlant Soil11518998Google Scholar
  42. Melillo, JM, Aber, JD, Muratore, JF 1982Nitrogen and lignin control of hardwood leaf litter decomposition dynamicsEcology636216Google Scholar
  43. Michel, K, Matzner, E 2002Nitrogen content of forest floor Oa layers affects carbon pathways and nitrogen mineralizationSoil Biol Biochem34180713CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Nadelhoffer, KJ, Giblin, AE, Shaver, GR, Laundre, JA 1991Effects of temperature and substrate quality on element mineralization in six arctic soilsEcology7224253Google Scholar
  45. Nanzyo, M, Dahlgren, R, Shoji, S 1993

    Physical characteristics of volcanic ash soils

    Shoji, S eds. Volcanic Ash Soils, Genesis, Properties, and UtilizationElsevierNew York189207
    Google Scholar
  46. Nettleton, WD, Brownfield, SH, Burt, R, Benhem, EC, Baird, SL, Hipple, K, McGrath, CL, Sinclair, HR 1999Reliability of andisol field texture clay estimatesSoil Survey Horizons403649Google Scholar
  47. O’Brien BJ, Stout JD. 1978. Movement and turnover of soil organic matter as indicated by carbon isotope measurements. 10: 309 7Google Scholar
  48. Oades, JM 1988The retention of organic matter in soilsBiogeochemistry53570Google Scholar
  49. Ostertag, R 2001The effects of nitrogen and phosphorus availability on fine root dynamics in Hawaiian montane forestsEcology8248599Google Scholar
  50. Ostertag, R, Hobbie, SE 1999Early stages of root and leaf decomposition in Hawaiian forests: effects of nutrient availabilityOecologia12156473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Parton, W, Schimel, DS, Cole, CV, Ojima, DS 1987Analysis of factors controlling soil organic matter levels in Great Plains grasslandsSoil Sci Am J5111739Google Scholar
  52. Perruchoud, D, Joos, F, Fischlin, A, Hajdas, I, Bonani, G 1999Evaluating timescales of carbon turnover in temperate forest soils with radiocarbon dataGlobal Biogeochem Cycles1355573CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Raich, JW, Schlesinger, WH 1992The global carbon dioxide flux in soil respiration and its relationship to vegetation and climateTellus448199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Richter, DD, Markewitz, D, Trumbore, SE, Wells, CG 1999Rapid accumulation and turnover of soil carbon in a re-establishing forestNature6739568CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Saggar, S, Tate, KR, Feltham, CW, Childs, CW, Parshotam, A 1994Carbon turnover in a range of allophanic soils amended with 14C-labelled glucoseSoil Biol Biochem26126371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sariyildiz, T, Anderson, JM 2003Interactions between litter quality, decomposition and soil fertility: A laboratory studySoil Biol Biochem353919CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schimel, DS, Brasswell, BH, Holland, E, McKeown, R, Ojima, S, Painter, TH, Parton, WJ, Townsend, AR 1994Climatic, edaphic, and biotic controls over storage and turnover of carbon in soilsGlobal Biogeochem Cycles827994CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Scholes, MC, Powlson, D, Tian, G 1997Input control of organic matter dynamicsGeoderma792547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Shaver, GR, Chapin, FS,III 1995Long-term responses to factorial, NPK fertilizer treatment by Alaskan wet and moist tundra sedge speciesEcography1825975Google Scholar
  60. Singh, JS, Gupta, SR 1977Plant decomposition and soil respiration in terrestrialecosystems3449528Google Scholar
  61. Stuiver, M, Polach, H 1977Reporting of 14C dataRadiocarbon1935563Google Scholar
  62. Swift, MJ, Heal, OW, Anderson, JM 1979Decomposition in terrestrial ecosystemsBlackwell ScientificOxford372Google Scholar
  63. Tanner, EVJ, Vitousek, PM, Cuevas, E 1998Experimental investigation of nutrient limitation of forest growth on wet tropical mountainsEcology791022Google Scholar
  64. Telles, EDC, Camargo, PB, Martinelli, LA, Trumbore, SE, da Costa, ES, Santos, J, Higuchi, N, Oliveira, RC 2003Influence of soil texture on carbon dynamics and storage potential in tropical forest soils of AmazoniaGlobal Biogeochem Cycles171040CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Torn, MS, Trumbore, SE, Chadwick, OA, Vitousek, PM, Hendricks, DM 1997Mineral control of soil organic carbon cyclingNature3891703CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Torn, MS, Masiello, C, Basile–Doelsch, I, Bijoor, N, Sutton, R 2002

    Mineral control of carbon storage in Andisols: Case studies and applications to other soils

    Arnalds, O eds. Soil Resources of European Volcanic Systems: Mineralogy related features and processes common to European AndosolsEuropean Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST)Manderscheid, Germany78
    Google Scholar
  67. Townsend, AR, Vitousek, PM, Trumbore, SE 1995Soil organic matter dynamics along gradients in temperature and land-useEcology76721733Google Scholar
  68. Townsend, AR, Vitousek, PM, DesMarais, DJ, Tharpe, A 1997Soil carbon pool structure and temperature sensitivity inferred using CO2 and 13CO2 incubation fluxes from five Hawaiian soilsBiogeochemistry38117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Treseder, KK, Vitousek, PM 2001Potential ecosystem-level effects of genetic variation among populations of Metrosideros polymorpha from a soil fertility gradient in HawaiiOecologia12626675CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Trumbore, SE 1993Comparison of carbon dynamics in tropical and temperate soils using radiocarbon measurementsGlobal Biogeochem Cycles727590Google Scholar
  71. Trumbore SE. 1997. Potential responses of soil organic carbon to global environmental change. In: Keeling D, Eds. Carbon Dioxide and Climate Change. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 94:8284–91Google Scholar
  72. Trumbore, SE 2000Age of soil organic matter and soil respiration: Radiocarbon constraints on belowground C dynamicsEcol Appl10399411Google Scholar
  73. Trumbore, SE, Harden, JW 1997Accumulation and turnover of carbon in organic and mineral soils of the BOREAS northern study areaJ Geophys Res1022881730CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Trumbore, SE, Schiff, SL, Aravena, R, Elgood, R 1992Sources and transformation of dissolved organic carbon in the Harp Lake forested catchment: the role of soilsRadiocarbon3462635Google Scholar
  75. Trumbore, SE, Chadwick, OA, Amundson, R 1996Rapid exchange between soil carbon and atmospheric carbon dioxide driven by temperature changeScience2723936Google Scholar
  76. Trumbore SE, Torn MS. 2004. Soils and the global carbon cycle.In: Holland EA, Eds,. Notes from Underground: Soils and Global Change. NATO Advanced Study Institute http://esd.lbl.gov/ESD_staff/torn/nato_soilcarbon.pdfGoogle Scholar
  77. Vance, ED, Brookes, PC, Jenkinson, DS 1987An extraction method for measuring soil microbial biomass CSoil Biol Biochem197037CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Veldkamp, E 1994Organic carbon turnover in 3 tropical soils under pasture after deforestationSoil Sci Am J5817580Google Scholar
  79. Vitousek, PM, Farrington, H 1997Nutrient limitation and soil development: Experimental test of a biogeochemical theoryBiogeochemistry376375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Vitousek, PM, Chadwick, OA, Crews, TE, Fownes, JH, Hendricks, DM, Herbert, D 1997Soil and ecosystem development across the Hawaiian IslandsGSA Today717PubMedGoogle Scholar
  81. Vitousek, PM, Walker, LR, Whiteaker, LD, Matson, PA 1993Nutrient limitations to plant growth during primary succession in Hawaii Volcanoes National ParkBiogeochemistry23197215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Vitousek, PM, Turner, DR, Parton, WJ, Sanford, RL 1994Litter decomposition on the Mauna Loa environmental matrix, Hawai’i: patterns, mechanisms, and modelsEcology7541829Google Scholar
  83. Vitousek, PM, Turner, DR, Kitayama, K 1995Foliar nutrients during long soil development in Hawaiian montane rain forestEcology7671220Google Scholar
  84. Vogel, JS 1992A rapid method for preparation of biomedical targets for AMSRadiocarbon3434450Google Scholar
  85. Vogel, JS, Southon, JR, Nelson, DE, Brown, TA 1984Performance of catalytically condensed carbon for use in Accelerator Mass SpectrometryNucl Instrum MethB528993Google Scholar
  86. Voroney, RP, Winter, JP, Beyaert, RP 1993

    Soil microbial biomass C and N

    Carter, MR eds. Soil Sampling and Methods of AnalysisLewis PublishersBoca Raton FL27786
    Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret S. Torn
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Peter M. Vitousek
    • 2
  • Susan E. Trumbore
    • 3
  1. 1.Lawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  3. 3.Earth System ScienceUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA

Personalised recommendations