Skip to main content

Advertisement

Log in

Isotope fractionation and 13C enrichment in soil profiles during the decomposition of soil organic matter

  • Ecosystem Ecology
  • Published:
Oecologia Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

The mechanisms behind the 13C enrichment of organic matter with increasing soil depth in forests are unclear. To determine if 13C discrimination during respiration could contribute to this pattern, we compared δ13C signatures of respired CO2 from sieved mineral soil, litter layer and litterfall with measurements of δ13C and δ15N of mineral soil, litter layer, litterfall, roots and fungal mycelia sampled from a 68-year-old Norway spruce forest stand planted on previously cultivated land. Because the land was subjected to ploughing before establishment of the forest stand, shifts in δ13C in the top 20 cm reflect processes that have been active since the beginning of the reforestation process. As 13C-depleted organic matter accumulated in the upper soil, a 1.0‰ δ13C gradient from −28.5‰ in the litter layer to −27.6‰ at a depth of 2–6 cm was formed. This can be explained by the 1‰ drop in δ13C of atmospheric CO2 since the beginning of reforestation together with the mixing of new C (forest) and old C (farmland). However, the isotopic change of the atmospheric CO2 explains only a portion of the additional 1.0‰ increase in δ13C below a depth of 20 cm. The δ13C of the respired CO2 was similar to that of the organic matter in the upper soil layers but became increasingly 13C enriched with depth, up to 2.5‰ relative to the organic matter. We hypothesise that this 13C enrichment of the CO2 as well as the residual increase in δ13C of the organic matter below a soil depth of 20 cm results from the increased contribution of 13C-enriched microbially derived C with depth. Our results suggest that 13C discrimination during microbial respiration does not contribute to the 13C enrichment of organic matter in soils. We therefore recommend that these results should be taken into consideration when natural variations in δ13C of respired CO2 are used to separate different components of soil respiration or ecosystem respiration.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Ågren G, Bosatta E (1996) Theoretical ecosystem ecology: understanding element cycles. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  • Ågren GI, Bosatta E, Balesdent J (1996) Isotope discrimination during decomposition of organic matter: a theoretical analysis. Soil Sci Soc Am J 60:1121–1126

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Blair N, Leu A, Munoz E, Olsen J, Kwong E, Des Marais D (1985) Carbon isotope fractionation in heterotrophic microbial metabolism. Appl Environ Microbiol 50:996–1001

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Bååth E, Nilsson LO, Göransson H, Wallander H (2004) Can the extent of degradation of soil fungal mycelium during soil incubation be used to estimate ectomycorrhizal biomass in soil? Soil Biol Biochem 36:2105–2109

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Brooks JR, Flanagan LB, Buchmann N, Ehleringer JR (1997) Carbon isotope composition of boreal plants: functional grouping of life forms. Oecologia 110:301–311

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cheng WX (1996) Measurement of rhizosphere respiration and organic matter decomposition using natural 13C. Plant Soil 183:263–268

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Cleveland CC, Neff JC, Townsend AR, Hood E (2004) Composition, dynamics, and fate of leached dissolved organic matter in terrestrial ecosystems: results from a decomposition experiment. Ecosystems 7:275–285

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Comstedt D, Boström B, Marshall JD, Holm A, Slaney M, Linder S, Ekblad A (2006) Effects of elevated [CO2] and temperature on soil respiration in a boreal forest using δ13C as a labelling tool. Ecosystems 9:1266–1277

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Deuser WG, Degens ET (1967) Carbon isotopic fractionation in the system CO2(gas)–CO2(aqueous)–HCO 3 (aqueous). Nature 215:1033–1035

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Ehleringer JR, Buchmann N, Flanagan LB (2000) Carbon isotope ratios in belowground carbon cycle processes. Ecol Appl 10:412–422

    Google Scholar 

  • Ekblad A, Boström B, Holm A, Comstedt D (2005) Forest soil respiration rate and δ13C is regulated by recent above ground weather conditions. Oecologia 143:136–142

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ekblad A, Högberg P (2000) Analysis of δ13C of CO2 distinguishes between microbial respiration of added C4-sucrose and other soil respiration in a C3-ecosystem. Plant Soil 219:197–209

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Ekblad A, Wallander H, Carlsson R, HussDanell K (1995) Fungal biomass in roots and extramatrical mycelium in relation to macronutrients and plant biomass of ectomycorrhizal Pinus sylvestris and Alnus incana. New Phytol 131:443–451

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ekblad A, Nyberg G, Högberg P (2002) 13C-discrimination during microbial respiration of added C3-, C4- and 13C-labelled sugars to a C3-forest soil. Oecologia 131:245–249

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fernandez I, Cadisch G (2003) Discrimination against 13C during degradation of simple and complex substrates by two white rot fungi. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 17:2614–2620

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Fernandez I, Mahieu N, Cadisch G (2003) Carbon isotopic fractionation during decomposition of plant materials of different quality. Global Biogeochem Cycles 17:1075–1085

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Formanek P, Ambus P (2004) Assessing the use of δ13C natural abundance in separation of root and microbial respiration in a Danish beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) forest. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 18:897–902

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Francey RJ, Allison CE. Etheridge DM, Trudinger CM, Enting IG, Leuenberger M, Langenfelds RL, Michel E, Steele LP (1999) A 1000-year high precision record of δ13C in atmospheric CO2. Tellus 51B:170–193

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Gebauer G, Schulze ED (1991) Carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios in different compartments of a healthy and a declining Picea-abies forest in the Fichtelgebirge, Ne Bavaria. Oecologia 87:198–207

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gleixner G (2005) Stable isotope composition of soil organic matter. In: Flanagan LB, Ehleringer JR, Pataki DE (eds) Stable isotopes and biosphere–atmosphere interactions: processes and biological controls. Academic, London pp 29–46

    Google Scholar 

  • Gleixner G, Danier HJ, Werner RA, Schmidt HL (1993) Correlations between the 13C content of primary and secondary plant-products in different cell compartments and that in decomposing Basidiomycetes. Plant Physiol 102:1287–1290

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Gleixner G, Bol R, Balesdent J (1999) Molecular insight into soil carbon turnover. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 13:1278–1283

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Gleixner G, Poirier N, Bol R, Balesdent J (2002) Molecular dynamics of organic matter in a cultivated soil. Org Geochem 33:357–366

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Godbold DL, Hoosbeek MR, Lukac M, Cotrufo MF, Janssens IA, Ceulemans R, Polle A, Velthorst EJ, Scarascia-Mugnozza G, De Angelis P, Miglietta F, Peressotti A (2006) Mycorrhizal turnover as a dominant process for carbon input into soil organic matter. Plant Soil 281:15–24

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hobbie EA, Colpaert JV (2004) Nitrogen availability and colonization by mycorrhizal fungi correlate with nitrogen isotope patterns in plants. New Phytol 157:115–126

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hobbie EA, Macko SA, Shugart HH (1999) Insights into nitrogen and carbon dynamics of ectomycorrhizal and saprotrophic fungi from isotopic evidence. Oecologia 118:353–360

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Högberg P (1997) Tansley review no. 95 – 15N natural abundance in soil-plant systems. New Phytol 137:179–203

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Högberg P, Ekblad A (1996) Substrate-induced respiration measured in situ in a C3-plant ecosystem using additions of C4-sucrose. Soil Biol Biochem 28:1131–1138

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Högberg P, Högbom L, Schinkel H, Högberg M, Johannisson C, Wallmark H (1996) 15N abundance of surface soils, roots and mycorrhizas in profiles of European forest soils. Oecologia 108:207–214

    Google Scholar 

  • Högberg P, Plamboeck AH, Taylor AFS, Fransson PMA (1999) Natural 13C abundance reveals trophic status of fungi and host-origin of carbon in mycorrhizal fungi in mixed forests. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 96:8534–8539

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Högberg P, Ekblad A, Nordgren A, Plamboeck AH, Ohlsson A, Bhupinderpal-Singh, Högberg MN (2005) Factors determining the 13C abundance of soil-respired CO2 in boreal forests. In: Flanagan LB, Ehleringer JR, Pataki DE (eds) Stable isotopes and biosphere–atmosphere interactions: processes and biological controls. Academic, London, pp 47–68

    Google Scholar 

  • Huang YS, Bol R, Harkness DD, Ineson P, Eglinton G (1996) Post-glacial variations in distributions, 13C and 14C contents of aliphatic hydrocarbons and bulk organic matter in three types of British acid upland soils. Org Geochem 24:273–287

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kaiser K, Guggenberger G, Zech W (2001) Isotopic fractionation of dissolved organic carbon in shallow forest soils as affected by sorption. Eur J Soil Sci 52:585–597

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kohzu A, Yoshioka T, Ando T, Takahashi M, Koba K, Wada E (1999) Natural 13C and 15N abundance of field-collected fungi and their ecological implications. New Phytol 144:323–330

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lin GH, Ehleringer JR (1997) Carbon isotopic fractionation does not occur during dark respiration in C3 and C4 plants. Plant Physiol 114:391–394

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Lindahl B, Ihrmark K, Boberg J, Trumbore SE, Högberg P, Stenlid J, Finlay RD. (2007) Spatial separation of litter decomposition and mycorrhizal nitrogen uptake in a boreal forest. New Phytol 173: 611–620

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Ludwig B, Heil B, Flessa H, Beese F (2000) Dissolved organic carbon in seepage water – production and transformation during soil passage. Acta Hydrochim Hydrobiol 28:77–82

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Mary B, Mariotti A, Morel JL (1992) Use of 13C Variations at natural abundance for studying the biodegradation of root mucilage, roots and glucose in soil. Soil Biol Biochem 24:1065–1072

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nadelhoffer KJ, Fry B (1988) Controls on natural 15N and 13C abundances in forest soil organic-matter. Soil Sci Soc Am J 52:1633–1640

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schweizer M, Fear J, Cadisch G (1999) Isotopic (13C) fractionation during plant residue decomposition and its implications for soil organic matter studies. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 13:1284–1290

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Söderström BE (1979) Seasonal fluctuations of active fungal biomass in horizons of a podzolized pine forest soil in central Sweden. Soil Biol Biochem 11:149–154

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Taylor AFS, Fransson PM, Högberg P, Högberg MN, Plamboeck AH (2003) Species level patterns in 13C and 15N abundance of ectomycorrhizal and saprotrophic fungal sporocarps. New Phytol 159:757–774

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Torn MS, Lapenis AG, Timofeev A, Fischer ML, Babikov BV, Harden JW (2002) Organic carbon and carbon isotopes in modern and 100-year-old-soil archives of the Russian steppe. Global Change Biol 8:941–953

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tu K, Dawson T (2005) Partitioning ecosystem respiration using stable carbon isotope analysis of CO2. In: Flanagan LB, Ehleringer JR, Pataki DE (eds) Stable isotopes and biosphere–atmosphere interactions: processes and biological controls. Academic, London, pp 125–153

    Google Scholar 

  • Wallander H, Nylund JE (1992) Effects of excess nitrogen and phosphorus starvation on the extramatrical mycelium of ectomycorrhizas of Pinus-sylvestris L. New Phytol 120:495–503

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wallander H, Nilsson LO, Hagerberg D, Bååth E (2001) Estimation of the biomass and seasonal growth of external mycelium of ectomycorrhizal fungi in the field. New Phytol 151:753–760

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wallander H, Nilsson LO, Hagerberg D, Rosengren U (2003) Direct estimates of C:N ratios of ectomycorrhizal mycelia collected from Norway spruce forest soils. Soil Biol Biochem 35:997–999

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wallander H, Göransson H, Rosengren U (2004) Production, standing biomass and natural abundance of 15N and 13C in ectomycorrhizal mycelia collected at different soil depths in two forest types. Oecologia 139:89–97

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Van Vuuren MMI, Robinson D, Scrimgeour CM, Raven JA, Fitter AH (2000) Decomposition of 13C-labelled wheat root systems following growth at different CO2 concentrations. Soil Biol Biochem 32:403–413

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wynn JG, Bird MI, Wong VNL (2005) Rayleigh distillation and the depth profile of 13C/12C ratios of soil organic carbon from soils of disparate texture in Iron Range National Park, Far North Queensland, Australia. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 69:1961–1973

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This study was financially supported by the Swedish Research Council (Vr) and the Swedish Research Council for the Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (Formas). We are grateful to Brevens bruk AB for allowing us to dig in their forests, Håkan Wallander for kindly supporting us with mesh bags, and Ann-Christin Heerman Erikson and Roger Westermark for help with the soil sampling.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Björn Boström.

Additional information

Communicated by Nina Buchmann.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Boström, B., Comstedt, D. & Ekblad, A. Isotope fractionation and 13C enrichment in soil profiles during the decomposition of soil organic matter. Oecologia 153, 89–98 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-007-0700-8

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-007-0700-8

Keywords

Navigation