Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 1032–1042 | Cite as

Compositional characterization of soil organic matter and hot-water-extractable organic matter in organic horizons using a molecular mixing model

SOILS, SEC 2 • GLOBAL CHANGE, ENVIRON RISK ASSESS, SUSTAINABLE LAND USE • RESEARCH ARTICLE

Abstract

Purpose

Microbial decomposition of soil organic matter (SOM) is generally believed to be heterogeneous, resulting in the preferential loss of labile compounds such as carbohydrates and proteins and the accumulation of recalcitrant compounds such as lipids and lignin. However, these fractions are difficult to measure directly in soils. We examined patterns in the biomolecular composition of SOM and hot-water-extractable organic matter (HWEOM) by using a molecular mixing model (MMM) to estimate the content of carbohydrates, protein, lipids, and lignin.

Materials and methods

Organic-horizon soils from Spodosols at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in NH, USA were analyzed for this study. The MMM uses data from elemental analysis (C, H, and N) and 13C nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy with cross-polarization and magic-angle spinning to estimate the percentage of total C in the various classes of biomolecules.

Results and discussion

Carbohydrate content decreased from about 50 % of the C in recent litter to approximately 35 % in the bottom of the humus layer. Lipids accounted for about 18 % of C in recent litter and increased to 40 % in the lower humus layers. The HWEOM fraction of SOM was dominated by carbohydrates (40–70 % of C). Carbohydrates and lipids in HWEOM exhibited depth patterns that were the opposite of the SOM. The results from the MMM confirmed the selective decomposition of carbohydrates and the relative accumulation of lipids during humus formation. The depth patterns in HWEOM suggest that the solubility of carbohydrates increases during decomposition, while the solubility of the lipid fraction decreases. The MMM was able to reproduce the spectral properties of SOM and HWEOM very accurately, although there were some discrepancies between the predicted and measured H/C and O/C ratios.

Conclusions

The MMM approach is an accurate and cost-effective alternative to wet-chemical methods. Together, carbohydrates and proteins account for up to 85 % of the C in HWEOM, indicating that the HWEOM fraction represents a labile source of C for microbes. Humification resulted in a decrease in carbohydrate content and an increase in lipids in SOM, consistent with investigations carried out in diverse soil environments.

Keywords

Carbon Decomposition Forest soil Modeling Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy Soil organic matter 

References

  1. Ahmad R, Nelson PN, Kookana RS (2006) The molecular composition of soil organic matter as determined by 13C NMR and elemental analyses and correlation with pesticide sorption. Eur J Soil Sci 57:883–893CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Balaria A (2011) Effects of calcium addition on structure and bioavailability of soil organic matter. Dissertation. Syracuse University, Syracuse, 228 ppGoogle Scholar
  3. Balaria A, Johnson CE, Xu Z (2009) Molecular-scale characterization of hot-water extractable organic matter in a northeastern forest soil. Soil Sci Soc Am J 73:812–821CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baldock JA, Smernik RJ (2002) Chemical composition and bioavailability of thermally altered Pinus resinosa (red pine) wood. Org Geochem 33:1093–1109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baldock JA, Kay BD, Schnitzer M (1987) Influence of cropping treatments on the monosaccharide content of the hydrolyzates of a soil and its aggregate fractions. Can J Soil Sci 67:489–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baldock JA, Masiello CA, Gélinas Y, Hedges JI (2004) Cycling and composition of organic matter in terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Marine Chem 92:39–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beavis J, Mott CJB (1996) Effects of land use on the amino acid composition of soils: 2. Soils from the park grass experiment and broadband wilderness, Rothamsted, England. Geoderma 91:173–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bohlen PJ, Groffman PG, Driscoll CT, Fahey TJ, Siccama TG (2001) Plant–soil–microbial interactions in a northern hardwood forest. Ecology 82:965–978Google Scholar
  9. Chen CR, Xu ZH, Mathers NJ (2004) Soil carbon pools in adjacent natural and plantation forests of subtropical Australia. Soil Sci Soc Am J 68:282–291Google Scholar
  10. Dickens AF, Baldock JA, Smernik RJ, Wakeham SG, Arnarson TS, Gélinas Y, Hedges JI (2006) Solid-state 13C NMR analysis of size and density fractions of marine sediments: insight into organic carbon sources and preservation mechanism. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 70:666–686CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ekschmitt K, Kandeler E, Poll C, Brune A, Buscot F, Friedrich M, Gleixner G, Hartmann A, Kästner M, Marhan S, Miltner A, Scheu S, Wolters V (2008) Soil-carbon preservation through habitat constraints and biological limitations on decomposer activity. J Plant Nutr Soil Sci 171:27–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fahey TJ, Siccama TG, Driscoll CT, Likens GE, Campbell J, Johnson CE, Battles JJ, Aber JD, Cole JJ, Fisk MC, Groffman PG, Hamburg SP, Holmes RT, Schwarz PA, Yanai RD (2005) The biogeochemistry of carbon at Hubbard Brook. Biogeochemistry 75:109–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fisk MC, Kessler WR, Goodale CA, Fahey TJ, Groffman PM, Driscoll CT (2006) Landscape variation in microarthropod response to calcium addition in a northern hardwood forest. Pedobiologia 50:69–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Friedel JK, Scheller E (2002) Composition of hydrolysable amino acids in soil organic matter and soil microbial biomass. Soil Biol Biochem 34:315–325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Goni MA, Hedges JI (1990) Cutin-derived cupric oxide reaction products from purified cuticles and tree leaves. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 54:3065–3072CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hatcher PG, Nanny MA, Minard RD, Dible SD, Carson DM (1995) Comparison of two thermochemolytic methods for the analysis of lignin in decomposing gymnosperm wood: the CuO oxidation method and the method of thermochemolysis with tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH). Org Geochem 23:881–888CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hedges JI, Baldock JA, Gélinas Y, Lee C, Peterson M, Wakeham SG (2001) Evidence for non-selective preservation of organic matter in sinking marine particles. Nature 409:801–804CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hedges JI, Baldock JA, Gélinas Y, Lee C, Peterson ML, Wakeham SG (2002) The biochemical and elemental compositions of marine plankton: a NMR perspective. Marine Chem 78:47–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Heng S, Goh KM (1981) A rapid method for extracting lipid components from forest litter especially adapted for ecological studies. Commun Soil Sci Plant Anal 12:1283–1292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Johnson CE, Johnson AH, Huntington TG, Siccama TG (1991) Whole-tree clearcutting effects on soil horizons and organic matter pools. Soil Sci Soc Am J 55:497–502CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Juice SM, Fahey TJ, Siccama TG, Driscoll CT, Denny EG, Eager C, Cleavitt NL, Minocha R, Richardson AD (2006) Response of sugar maple to calcium addition to northern hardwood forest. Ecology 87:1267–1280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kaal J, Baldock JA, Buurman P, Nierop KGJ, Pontevedra-Pombal X, Martinez-Cortizas A (2007) Evaluating pyrolysis–GC/MS and 13C CPMAS NMR in conjunction with a molecular mixing model of the Penido Vello peat deposit, NW Spain. Org Geochem 38:1097–1111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kögel I, Hempfling R, Zech W, Hatcher PG, Schulten H-R (1988) Chemical composition of the organic matter in forest soils: 1. Forest litter. Soil Sci 146:124–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kögel-Knabner I, Zech W, Hatcher PG (1988) Chemical composition of the organic matter in forest soils: the humus layer. Zeitschrift fur Pflanzenernahrung und Bodenkunde 151:331–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kolattukudy PE (1980) Cutin, suberin, and waxes. Biochem Plants 4:571–645Google Scholar
  26. Landgraf D, Leinweber P, Makeschin F (2006) Cold and hot water-extractable organic matter as indicators of litter decomposition in forest soils. J Plant Nutr Soil Sci 169:76–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Leinweber P, Schulten H–R, Koerschens M (1995) Hot-water extracted organic matter: chemical composition and temporal variations in a long-term field experiment. Biol Fert Soils 20:17–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lemma B, Nilsson I, Kleja DB, Olsson M, Knicker H (2007) Decomposition and substrate quality of leaf litters and fine roots from three exotic plantations and a native forest on the southwestern highlands of Ethiopia. Soil Biol Biochem 39:2317–2328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Malcolm RL, MacCarthy P (1986) Limitations in the use of commercial humic acids in soil and water research. Environ Sci Technol 20:904–911CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mathers NJ, Jalota RK, Dalal RC, Boyd SE (2007) 13C NMR analysis of decomposing litter and fine roots in the semi-arid Mulga Lands of southern Queensland. Soil Biol Biochem 39:993–1006CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mitchell MJ, Driscoll CT, Fuller RD, David MB, Likens GE (1989) Effect of whole-tree harvesting on the sulfur dynamics of a forest soil. Soil Sci Soc Am J 53:933–940CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Nelson PN, Baldock JA (2005) Estimating the molecular composition of a diverse range of natural organic materials from solid-state 13C NMR and elemental analyses. Biogeochemistry 72:1–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nelson PN, Baldock JA, Clarke P, Oades JM, Churchman GJ (1999) Dispersed clay and organic matter in soil: their nature and association. Aust J Soil Res 37:289–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ogner G (1985) A comparison of four different raw humus types in Norway using chemical degradations and CPMAS 13C NMR spectroscopy. Geoderma 35:343–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Preston CM, Trofymow JA, Sayer BG, Niu J (1997) 13C nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy with cross-polarization and magic-angle spinning investigation of the proximate analysis fractions used to assess litter quality in decomposition studies. Can J Botany 75:1601–1613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rass DP, Rumpel C, Dignac M (2005) Is soil carbon mostly root carbon? Mechanisms for a specific stabilization. Plant Soil 269:341–356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Reeves AD (1995) The use of organic markers in the differentiation of organic inputs to aquatic systems. Phys Chem Earth 20:133–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rice JA, MacCarthy P (1991) Statistical evaluation of the elemental composition of humic substances. Org Geochem 17:635–648CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rosenberg W, Nierop KGJ, Knicker H, de Jager PA, Kreutzer K, Weib T (2003) Liming effects on the chemical composition of the organic surface layer of a mature Norway spruce stand (Picea abies [L.] Karst.). Soil Biol Biochem 35:155–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Schlesinger WH (1997) Biogeochemistry: an analysis of global change, 2nd edn. Academic, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  41. Soil Survey Staff (2010) Keys to soil taxonomy, 11th edn. USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Washington, 338 ppGoogle Scholar
  42. Sparling GM, Vojvodic-Vukovic M, Schipper LA (1998) Hot-water-soluble C as a simple measure of labile soil organic matter: the relationship with microbial biomass C. Soil Biol Biochem 30:1469–1472CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Stevenson FJ (1994) Humus chemistry: genesis, composition, reactions, 2nd edn. John Wiley & Sons, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  44. Ussiri DAN, Johnson CE (2003) Characterization of organic matter in a northern hardwood forest soil by 13C NMR spectroscopy and chemical methods. Geoderma 111:123–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wilson MA (1987) NMR techniques and applications in geochemistry and soil chemistry. Pergamon, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  46. Wu Q-L, Schleuss U, Blume HP (1995) Investigation on soil lipid extraction with different organic solvents. Zeitschrift fur Pflanzenernahrung und Bodenkunde 158:347–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA

Personalised recommendations