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Ecosystems

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 382–397 | Cite as

Vegetation Effects on Soil Organic Matter Chemistry of Aggregate Fractions in a Hawaiian Forest

  • Catherine E. StewartEmail author
  • Jason C. Neff
  • Kathryn L. Amatangelo
  • Peter M. Vitousek
Article

Abstract

We examined chemical changes from leaf tissue to soil organic matter (SOM) to determine the persistence of plant chemistry into soil aggregate fractions. We characterized a slow (Dicranopteris linearis) and fast-decomposing species (Cheirodendron trigynum) and surface (O), and subsurface (A-horizon) SOM beneath each species using pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (py-GC/MS), with and without derivatization. The live tissues of Dicranopteris had greater lignin content whereas Cheirodendron had a greater lipid, N-bearing, and polysaccharide component. Despite this difference in leaf chemistry, SOM chemistry was similar between soil aggregate fractions, but different between horizons. The O-horizon contained primarily lignin and polysaccharide biomarkers whereas the A-horizon contained polysaccharide, aromatic, and N-derived compounds, indicating considerable microbial processing of plant litter. The soils beneath Cheirodendron inherited a greater lipid signal composed of cutin and suberin biomarkers whereas the soils beneath Dicranopteris contained greater aromatic biomarker content, possibly derived from plant lignins. The soils beneath both species were more similar to root polysaccharides, lipids, and lignins than aboveground tissue. This study indicates that although plant-derived OM is processed vigorously, species-specific biomarkers and compound class differences persist into these soils and that differences in plant chemical properties may influence soil development even after considerable reworking of plant litter by microorganisms.

Keywords

Hawaii decomposition soil organic matter fern soil organic chemistry soil organic carbon pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank Daniel Fernandez for assistance with the py-GC/MS instrument, as well as Cody Flagg for sample preparation. The authors also wish to thank Heraldo Farrington, Ted Raab, and Rebecca Funk for help with field sampling. The authors also acknowledge the constructive comments of four anonymous reviewers. This study was funded by the University of Colorado Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship, and by a National Science Foundation Grant (DEB-0515918).

Supplementary material

10021_2011_9417_MOESM1_ESM.doc (316 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 316 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine E. Stewart
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jason C. Neff
    • 2
  • Kathryn L. Amatangelo
    • 3
  • Peter M. Vitousek
    • 4
  1. 1.Soil-Plant-Nutrient Research UnitUSDA/ARSFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of ColoradoBoulder USA
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biological SciencesStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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