, Volume 123, Issue 1–2, pp 27–47 | Cite as

Optimization of method to quantify soil organic matter dynamics and carbon sequestration potential in volcanic ash soils

  • Susan E. CrowEmail author
  • Mataia Reeves
  • Olivia S. Schubert
  • Carlos A. Sierra


Volcanic ash-derived soils are important globally for their C sequestration potential and because they are at risk of compaction and degradation due to land use change. Poorly or non-crystalline minerals impart enormous capacity for soils to store and stabilize C, but also unusual chemical and physical properties that make quantifying meaningful soil C pools challenging. Here, we optimize a soil physical fractionation method to effectively assess soil organic matter dynamics in volcanic ash soils by first comparing three common methods for Andisols of the same soil series under three land uses. Components of those methods that (1) effectively isolated C pools of different size and turnover and (2) demonstrated potential sensitivity to land use change were then modified for a final, combined method. The isolation of C pools corresponding to fundamental mechanisms of protection within aggregates and organo-mineral control on the stabilization of C, which often function to the extreme in volcanic ash soils, underlie these modifications. Combined application of ultrasonic energy to disrupt aggregates and the removal of light fractions with sequential high density fractionation successfully isolated multiple C pools that ranged in radiocarbon-based turnover time from 7 to 1,011 year in the surface 0–15 cm of mineral soil in an undisturbed, native forest. Soil C accumulates as a result of high, continuous input that cycles through a transitional (century-scale) organo-mineral pool and then either becomes occluded and protected within aggregates (multiple centuries) or enters a continuum of organo-mineral and non-crystalline mineral-dominated pools (from centuries to millennium-scale). Comparison of relative C pool sizes and C isotope signature among soils from native forest, grazed pasture, and managed Eucalyptus plantation revealed the potential for making accurate, direct measurements of soil C change over time with land use and management change or disturbance regime.


Andisol Carbon cycle Carbon sequestration Land use change Physical fractionation Volcanic ash soil 



Support for this work was provided by National Science Foundation Industry & University Cooperative Research Program (NSF I/UCRC) funding the Center for Bioenergy Research and Development (CBeRD), award No. IIP-0832554 to Scott Turn, P. I. Additional radiocarbon funds were provided through Christopher Swanston and Kate Heckman of the Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service for preparation and radiocarbon analysis of soil samples at Lawrence Livermore National Lab. We thank Creighton Litton, Christian Giardina, Nicholas Koch (Forest Solutions, Inc.), and Parker Ranch for access to study locations and advice. Appreciation is expressed for Goro Uehara, Jonathan Deenik, Amy Koch, Alisa Davis, Mariko Panzella, Maxim Irion, Jon Wells, and Heather Kikkawa for mentoring, field, and lab work assistance. Troy Baisden provided valuable input and advice on the dataset. We appreciate the thoughtful reviews and comments made by the associate editor and three anonymous reviewers.

Supplementary material

10533_2014_51_MOESM1_ESM.jpg (301 kb)
Supplemental Fig. 1 Relative C balance among soil physical fractions isolated by various methods at the pasture site, bars are mean values ± one standard error for the laboratory replicates. Supplementary material 1 (JPEG 301 kb)
10533_2014_51_MOESM2_ESM.jpg (320 kb)
Supplemental Fig. 2 Relative C balance among soil physical fractions isolated by various methods at the managed Eucalyptus plantation site, bars are mean values ± one standard error for the laboratory replicates. Supplementary material 2 (JPEG 320 kb)
10533_2014_51_MOESM3_ESM.docx (28 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 28 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan E. Crow
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mataia Reeves
    • 1
  • Olivia S. Schubert
    • 1
  • Carlos A. Sierra
    • 2
  1. 1.Natural Resources and Environmental Management Department (NREM Department)University of Hawaii ManoaHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.Max Planck Institute for BiogeochemistryJenaGermany

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