, Volume 133, Issue 3, pp 333–345 | Cite as

Association with pedogenic iron and aluminum: effects on soil organic carbon storage and stability in four temperate forest soils

  • Rachel C. Porras
  • Caitlin E. Hicks Pries
  • Karis J. McFarlane
  • Paul J. Hanson
  • Margaret S. Torn


Soil organic carbon (SOC) can be stabilized via association with iron (Fe) and aluminum (Al) minerals. Fe and Al can be strong predictors of SOC storage and turnover in soils with relatively high extractable metals content and moderately acidic to circumneutral pH. Here we test whether pedogenic Fe and Al influence SOC content and turnover in soils with low Fe and Al content and acidic pH. In soils from four sites spanning three soil orders, we quantified the amount of Fe and Al in operationally-defined poorly crystalline and organically-complexed phases using selective chemical dissolution applied to the soil fraction containing mineral-associated carbon. We evaluated the correlations of Fe and Al concentrations, mean annual precipitation (MAP), mean annual temperature (MAT), and pH with SOC content and 14C-based turnover times. We found that poorly crystalline Fe and Al content predicted SOC turnover times (p < 0.0001) consistent with findings of previous studies, while organically-complexed Fe and Al content was a better predictor of SOC concentration (p < 0.0001). Greater site-level MAP (p < 0.0001) and colder site-level MAT (p < 0.0001) were correlated with longer SOC turnover times but were not correlated with SOC content. Our results suggest that poorly crystalline Fe and Al effectively slow the turnover of SOC in these acidic soils, even when their combined content in the soil is less than 2% by mass. However, in the strongly acidic Spodosol, organo-metal complexes tended to be less stable resulting in a more actively cycling mineral-associated SOC pool.


14Soil carbon stabilization Selective chemical dissolution Soil fractionation Soil organic carbon Mineral-organic associations 





Oxalate extractable Al


Organically complexed Al extractable in sodium pyrophosphate


Poorly crystalline Al






Oxalate extractable Fe


Organically complexed Fe extractable in sodium pyrophosphate


Poorly crystalline Fe


Mean annual precipitation


Mean annual temperature


Soil organic carbon



The authors gratefully acknowledge EBIS AmeriFlux Project Donald E. Todd and Jana Phillips for the field collection of samples at the EBIS sites. We thank study site contacts Bill Munger, Dave Hollinger, Steve Pallardy, and Jim LeMoine who provided valuable information on site characterization and site data and Joern T. Larsen and April T. Van Hise for expert assistance with ICP-MS analysis. This work was supported by the United States Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231 to Berkeley Lab; and under project SCW0676 to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under Contract DE-AC52-07NA27344).

Supplementary material

10533_2017_337_MOESM1_ESM.docx (96 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 95 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland (outside the USA) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel C. Porras
    • 1
  • Caitlin E. Hicks Pries
    • 1
  • Karis J. McFarlane
    • 2
  • Paul J. Hanson
    • 3
  • Margaret S. Torn
    • 1
  1. 1.Climate and Ecosystem Sciences DivisionLawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Center for Accelerator Mass SpectrometryLawrence Livermore National LaboratoryLivermoreUSA
  3. 3.Climate Change Science Institute and Environmental Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA

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