Advertisement

Biogeochemistry

, Volume 134, Issue 1–2, pp 5–16 | Cite as

Long term decomposition: the influence of litter type and soil horizon on retention of plant carbon and nitrogen in soils

  • Caitlin E. Hicks PriesEmail author
  • Jeffrey A. Bird
  • Cristina Castanha
  • Pierre-Joseph Hatton
  • Margaret S. Torn
Biogeochemistry Letters

Abstract

How plant inputs from above- versus below-ground affect long term carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) retention and stabilization in soils is not well known. We present results of a decade-long field study that traced the decomposition of 13C- and 15N-labeled Pinus ponderosa needle and fine root litter placed in O or A soil horizons of a sandy Alfisol under a coniferous forest. We measured the retention of litter-derived C and N in particulate (>2 mm) and bulk soil (<2 mm) fractions, as well as in density-separated free light and three mineral-associated fractions. After 10 years, the influence of slower initial mineralization of root litter compared to needle litter was still evident: almost twice as much root litter (44% of C) was retained than needle litter (22–28% of C). After 10 years, the O horizon retained more litter in coarse particulate matter implying the crucial comminution step was slower than in the A horizon, while the A horizon retained more litter in the finer bulk soil, where it was recovered in organo-mineral associations. Retention in these A horizon mineral-associated fractions was similar for roots and needles. Nearly 5% of the applied litter C (and almost 15% of the applied N) was in organo-mineral associations, which had centennial residence times and potential for long-term stabilization. Vertical movement of litter-derived C was minimal after a decade, but N was significantly more mobile. Overall, the legacy of initial litter quality influences total SOM retention; however, the potential for and mechanisms of long-term SOM stabilization are influenced not by litter type but by soil horizon.

Keywords

Litter Decomposition 13C 15N Needle Fine root Soil organic matter Stabilization Density fractionation Organo-mineral associations 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work was supported as part of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Science Program by the Director, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, of the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231. We gratefully acknowledge Rachel Porras and Heather Dang for assistance with lab analyses and the UC Berkeley Center for Forestry Blodgett Forest Research Station.

Supplementary material

10533_2017_345_MOESM1_ESM.docx (194 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 193 kb)

References

  1. Aerts R (1997) Climate, leaf litter chemistry and leaf litter decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems: a triangular relationship. Oikos 79:439–449. doi: 10.2307/3546886 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aerts R (2006) The freezer defrosting: global warming and litter decomposition rates in cold biomes. J Ecol 94:713–724. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2006.01142.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baisden WT, Amundson R, Brenner DL et al (2002) A multiisotope C and N modeling analysis of soil organic matter turnover and transport as a function of soil depth in a California annual grassland soil chronosequence. Global Biogeochem Cycles 16:1135. doi: 10.1029/2001GB001823 Google Scholar
  4. Beyaert R, Voroney R (2011) Estimation of decay constants for crop residues measured over 15 years in conventional and reduced tillage systems in a coarse-textured soil in southern Ontario. Can J Soil Sci 91:985–995. doi: 10.1139/CJSS2010-055 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bird JA, Torn MS (2006) Fine roots versus needles: a comparison of 13C and 15N dynamics in a ponderosa pine forest soil. Biogeochemistry 79:361–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bird JA, Kleber M, Torn MS (2008) 13C and 15N stabilization dynamics in soil organic matter fractions during needle and fine root decomposition. Org Geochem 39:465–477. doi: 10.1016/j.orggeochem.2007.12.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bloomfield J, Vogt KA, Vogt DJ (1993) Decay rate and substrate quality of fine roots and foliage of two tropical tree species in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico. Plant Soil 150:233–245. doi: 10.1007/BF00013020 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bolker BM (2008) Ecological models and data in R. Princeton University Press, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
  9. Bolker B (2012) Maximum likelihood estimation and analysis with the bbmle package. Princeton University Press, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
  10. Castellano MJ, Mueller KE, Olk DC, Sawyer JE, Six J (2015) Integrating plant litter quality, soil organic matter stabilization, and the carbon saturation concept. Glob Chang Biol 21(9):3200–3209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cotrufo MF, Wallenstein MD, Boot CM et al (2013) The microbial efficiency-matrix stabilization (MEMS) framework integrates plant litter decomposition with soil organic matter stabilization: do labile plant inputs form stable soil organic matter? Glob Change Biol 19:988–995. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12113 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cotrufo MF, Soong JL, Horton AJ et al (2015) Formation of soil organic matter via biochemical and physical pathways of litter mass loss. Nature Geosci 8:776–779. doi: 10.1038/ngeo2520 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dorrepaal E, Cornelissen JH, Aerts R et al (2005) Are growth forms consistent predictors of leaf litter quality and decomposability across peatlands along a latitudinal gradient? J Ecol 93:817–828CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dungait JAJ, Hopkins DW, Gregory AS, Whitmore AP (2012) Soil organic matter turnover is governed by accessibility not recalcitrance. Glob Change Biol 18:1781–1796. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2012.02665.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Freschet GT, Cornwell WK, Wardle DA et al (2013) Linking litter decomposition of above- and below-ground organs to plant–soil feedbacks worldwide. J Ecol 101:943–952. doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.12092 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fujii S, Takeda H (2010) Dominant effects of litter substrate quality on the difference between leaf and root decomposition process above- and belowground. Soil Biol Biochem 42:2224–2230. doi: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2010.08.022 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gaudinski JB, Torn MS, Riley WJ et al (2010) Measuring and modeling the spectrum of fine-root turnover times in three forests using isotopes, minirhizotrons, and the Radix model. Global Biogeochem Cycles. doi: 10.1029/2009GB003649 Google Scholar
  18. Gleixner G (2013) Soil organic matter dynamics: a biological perspective derived from the use of compound-specific isotopes studies. Ecol Res 28:683–695. doi: 10.1007/s11284-012-1022-9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Haddix ML, Paul EA, Cotrufo MF (2016) Dual, differential isotope labeling shows the preferential movement of labile plant constituents into mineral-bonded soil organic matter. Glob Change Biol 22:2301–2312. doi: 10.1111/gcb.13237 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hansson K, Kleja DB, Kalbitz K, Larsson H (2010) Amounts of carbon mineralised and leached as DOC during decomposition of Norway spruce needles and fine roots. Soil Biol Biochem 42:178–185. doi: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2009.10.013 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hatton P-J, Kleber M, Zeller B et al (2012) Transfer of litter-derived N to soil mineral–organic associations: evidence from decadal 15N tracer experiments. Org Geochem 42:1489–1501. doi: 10.1016/j.orggeochem.2011.05.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hatton P-J, Bodé S, Angeli N et al (2014) Assimilation and accumulation of C by fungi and bacteria attached to soil density fractions. Soil Biol Biochem 79:132–139. doi: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2014.09.013 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hatton P-J, Castanha C, Torn MS, Bird JA (2015) Litter type control on soil C and N stabilization dynamics in a temperate forest. Glob Change Biol 21:1358–1367. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12786 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hobbie SE (1996) Temperature and plant species control over litter decomposition in Alaskan tundra. Ecol Monogr 66:503–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hose E, Clarkson DT, Steudle E et al (2001) The exodermis: a variable apoplastic barrier. J Exp Bot 52:2245–2264. doi: 10.1093/jexbot/52.365.2245 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lehmann J, Kleber M (2015) The contentious nature of soil organic matter. Nature 528:60–68. doi: 10.1038/nature16069 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mambelli S, Bird JA, Gleixner G et al (2011) Relative contribution of foliar and fine root pine litter to the molecular composition of soil organic matter after in situ degradation. Org Geochem 42:1099–1108. doi: 10.1016/j.orggeochem.2011.06.008 Google Scholar
  28. Marschner B, Brodowski S, Dreves A et al (2008) How relevant is recalcitrance for the stabilization of organic matter in soils? Z Pflanzenernähr Bodenk 171:91–110. doi: 10.1002/jpln.200700049 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mathieu JA, Hatté C, Balesdent J, Parent É (2015) Deep soil carbon dynamics are driven more by soil type than by climate: a worldwide meta-analysis of radiocarbon profiles. Glob Change Biol 21:4278–4292. doi: 10.1111/gcb.13012 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Melillo JM, Aber JD, Muratore JF (1982) Nitrogen and lignin control of hardwood leaf litter decomposition dynamics. Ecology 63:621–626. doi: 10.2307/1936780 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Melillo JM, Aber JD, Linkins AE et al (1989) Carbon and nitrogen dynamics along the decay continuum: plant litter to soil organic matter. In: Clarholm M, Bergström L (eds) Ecology of Arable Land—perspectives and challenges. Springer, The Netherlands, pp 53–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Miltner A, Bombach P, Schmidt-Brücken B, Kästner M (2012) SOM genesis: microbial biomass as a significant source. Biogeochemistry 111:41–55. doi: 10.1007/s10533-011-9658-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Petersen H, Luxton M (1982) A comparative analysis of soil fauna populations and their role in decomposition processes. Oikos 39:288–388. doi: 10.2307/3544689 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. R Development Core Team (2017) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for statistical computing, Vienna, AustriaGoogle Scholar
  35. Rasse DP, Rumpel C, Dignac M-F (2005) Is soil carbon mostly root carbon? Mechanisms for a specific stabilisation. Plant Soil 269:341–356. doi: 10.1007/s11104-004-0907-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rumpel C, Kögel-Knabner I (2011) Deep soil organic matter—a key but poorly understood component of terrestrial C cycle. Plant Soil 338:143–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sanaullah M, Chabbi A, Leifeld J et al (2011) Decomposition and stabilization of root litter in top-and subsoil horizons: what is the difference? Plant Soil 338:127–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schmidt MW, Torn MS, Abiven S et al (2011) Persistence of soil organic matter as an ecosystem property. Nature 478:49–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Silver WL, Miya RK (2001) Global patterns in root decomposition: comparisons of climate and litter quality effects. Oecologia 129:407–419. doi: 10.1007/s004420100740 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sollins P, Swanston C, Kleber M et al (2006) Organic C and N stabilization in a forest soil: evidence from sequential density fractionation. Soil Biol Biochem 38:3313–3324. doi: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2006.04.014 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sollins P, Kramer MG, Swanston C et al (2009) Sequential density fractionation across soils of contrasting mineralogy: evidence for both microbial- and mineral-controlled soil organic matter stabilization. Biogeochemistry 96:209–231. doi: 10.1007/s10533-009-9359-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Solly EF, Schöning I, Herold N et al (2015) No depth-dependence of fine root litter decomposition in temperate beech forest soils. Plant Soil 393:273–282. doi: 10.1007/s11104-015-2492-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Stohlgren TJ (1988) Litter dynamics in two Sierran mixed conifer forests. I. Litterfall and decomposition rates. Can J For Res 18:1127–1135. doi: 10.1139/x88-174 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Torn MS, Trumbore SE, Chadwick OA et al (1997) Mineral control of soil organic carbon storage and turnover. Nature 389:170–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Voroney RP, Paul EA, Anderson DW (1989) Decomposition of wheat straw and stabilization of microbial products. Can J Soil Sci 69:63–77. doi: 10.4141/cjss89-007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wieder WR, Cleveland CC, Townsend AR (2009) Controls over leaf litter decomposition in wet tropical forests. Ecology 90:3333–3341. doi: 10.1890/08-2294.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland (outside the USA) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caitlin E. Hicks Pries
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jeffrey A. Bird
    • 2
  • Cristina Castanha
    • 1
  • Pierre-Joseph Hatton
    • 2
    • 3
  • Margaret S. Torn
    • 1
  1. 1.Climate and Ecosystem Sciences DivisionLawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.School of Earth & Environmental SciencesQueens College, CUNYNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

Personalised recommendations