Plant and Soil

, Volume 310, Issue 1–2, pp 11–23 | Cite as

Dynamics of simple carbon compounds in two forest soils as revealed by soil solution concentrations and biodegradation kinetics

Regular Article


Simple compounds in soil such as organic acids, amino acids and monosaccharides are believed to be important in regulating many aspects of terrestrial ecosystem functioning (e.g. C cycling, nutrient acquisition). Understanding the fate and dynamics of these low molecular weight (MW) compounds is therefore essential for predicting ecosystem responses to disturbance. Our aim was to quantify the amounts of these compounds in two podzolic forest soil profiles (O, E, Bs and C horizons) and to quantify their contribution to total soil respiration. The total concentration of organic acids, amino acids and monosaccharides in soil solution comprised on average 15 ± 10% of the total dissolved organic C (DOC), with declining concentrations in the deeper soil layers. Dissolved organic N (DON) was the dominant form of N in soil solution and free amino acids contributed to 34% of this pool. The mineralization behaviour of glucose and galactose was described by parabolic (Michaelis–Menten) type kinetics with Vmax and KM values in the range of <1–250 μmol kg−1 h−1 and 15–1,100 μM, respectively. Assuming that (1) microbially mediated substrate turnover follows Michaelis–Menten kinetics, and (2) steady state soil solution concentrations, we calculated the rate of CO2 efflux attributable to the mineralisation of the three classes of low MW compounds. Our results indicated that in the O horizon, the turnover of these substrates could comprise ~100% of the basal, heterotrophic, soil respiration. In contrast, in the deeper mineral soil <20% of total soil respiration could be attributable to the mineralization of these compounds. Our compound-specific approach has identified the main substrates contributing to soil respiration in forest topsoils. However, our results also suggest that soil respiration in subsoils may be attributable to compounds other than organic acids, amino acids and monosaccharides.


Acid soil Biodegradation Carbon budget Forest soil Galactose Glucose Norway spruce Spodosol 


  1. Andersson P, Berggren D (2005) Amino acids, total organic and inorganic nitrogen in forest floor soil solution at low and high nitrogen input. Water Air Soil Pollut 162:369–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Appuhn A, Joergensen RG, Raubuch M, Scheller E, Wilke B (2004) The automated determination of glucosamine, galactosamine, muramic acid and mannosamine in soil and root hydrolysates by HPLC. J Plant Nutr Soil Sci 167:17–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boddy E, Hill PW, Farrar J, Jones DL (2007) Fast turnover of low molecular weight components of the dissolved organic carbon pool of temperate grassland field soils. Soil Biol Biochem 39:827–835CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Christou M, Avramides EJ, Roberts JP, Jones DL (2005) Dissolved organic nitrogen in contrasting agricultural ecosystems. Soil Biol Biochem 37:1560–1563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Coody PN, Sommers LE, Nelson DW (1986) Kinetics of glucose uptake by soil microorganisms. Soil Biol Biochem 18:283–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dahlén J, Hagberg J, Karlsson S (2000) Analysis of low molecular weight organic acids in water with capillary zone electrophoresis employing indirect photometric detection. Fresenius J Anal Chem 366:488–493PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. FAO-Unesco (1988) Soil map of the world. Revised legend. World Soil Resources, report 60. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  8. Giesler R, Lundström US (1993) Soil solution chemistry – the effects of bulking soil samples and spatial variation. Soil Sci Soc Am J 57:1283–1288Google Scholar
  9. Hanson PJ, Edwards NT, Garten CT, Andrews JA (2000) Separating root and soil microbial contributions to soil respiration: a review of methods and observations. Biogeochemistry 48:115–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Jones DL (1998) Organic acids in the rhizosphere – a critical review. Plant Soil 205:25–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jones DL, Edwards AC (1998) Influence of sorption on the biological utilization of two simple carbon substrates. Soil Biol Biochem 30:1895–1902CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Jones DL, Kielland K (2002) Soil amino acid turnover dominates the nitrogen flux in permafrost-dominated taiga forest soils. Soil Biol Biochem 34:209–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Jones DL, Prabowo AM, Kochian LV (1996) Kinetics of malate transport and decomposition in acid soils and isolated bacterial populations: the effect of microorganisms on root exudation of malate under Al stress. Plant Soil 182:239–247Google Scholar
  14. Jones DL, Owen AG, Farrar JF (2002) Simple method to enable the resolution determination of total free amino acids in soil solution and soil extracts. Soil Biol Biochem 34:1893–1902CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jones DL, Dennis PG, Owen AG, van Hees PAW (2003) Organic acid behaviour in soils – misconceptions and knowledge gaps. Plant Soil 248:31–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jones DL, Shannon D, Murphy DV, Farrar J (2004a) Role of dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) in soil N cycling in grassland soils. Soil Biol Biochem 36:749–756CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jones DL, Hodge A, Kuzyakov Y (2004b) Plant and mycorrhizal regulation of rhizodeposition. New Phytol 163:459–480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jones DL, Healey JR, Willett VB, Farrar JF, Hodge A (2005) Dissolved organic nitrogen uptake by plants – an important N uptake pathway? Soil Biol Biochem 37:413–423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kaiser K, Guggenberger G, Haumaier L, Zech W (2001) Seasonal variations in chemical composition of dissolved organic matter in organic forest floor layer leachates of old-growth Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) and European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) stands in northeastern Bavaria, Germany. Biogeochemistry 55:103–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kalbitz K, Solinger S, Park JH, Michalzik B, Matzner E (2000) Controls on the dynamics of dissolved organic matter in soils: a review. Soil Sci 165:277–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kalbitz K, Schmerwitz J, Schwesig D, Matzner E (2003) Biodegradation of soil-derived dissolved organic matter as related to its properties. Geoderma 113:273–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kuzyakov Y, Demin V (1998) CO2 efflux by rapid decomposition of low molecular organic substances in soils. Sci Soils 3:11–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lohm U, Larsson K, Nômmik H (1984) Acidification and liming of coniferous forest soil: long-term effects on turnover rates of carbon and nitrogen during an incubation experiment. Soil Biol Biochem 16:343–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lundström US, van Breemen N, Bain DC, van Hees PAW, Giesler R, Gustafsson JP, Ivesniemi H, Karltun E, Melkerud P-A, Olsson M, Riise G, Wahlberg O, Bergelin A, Bishop K, Finlay R, Jongmans AG, Magnusson T, Mannerkoski H, Nordgren A, Nyberg L, Starr M, Tau Strand L (2000) Advances in understanding the podzolization process resulting from a multidisciplinary study of three coniferous forest soils in the Nordic Countries. Geoderma 94:335–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McDowell WH, Likens GE (1988) Origin, composition, and flux of dissolved organic carbon in the Hubbard Brook Valley. Ecol Monogr 58:177–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McKeague JA, Chesire MV, Andreux F, Berthelin J (1986) Organo-mineral complexes in relation to pedogenesis. In: Huang PM, Schnitzer M (eds) Interaction of soil minerals with natural organics and microbes. SSSA, Madison, WI, pp 549–592Google Scholar
  27. Meyer A, Raba C, Fischer K (2001) Ion-pair RP-HPLC determination of sugar, amino sugars, and uronic acids after derivatization with p-aminobenzoic acid. Anal Chem 73:2377–2383PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Michalzik B, Kalbitz K, Park J-H, Solinger S, Matzner E (2001) Fluxes and concentrations of dissolved organic carbon – a synthesis for temperate forests. Biogeochemistry 52:173–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Myklestad SM, Skånoy E, Hestmann S (1997) A sensitive and rapid method for analysis of dissolved mono- and polysaccharides in seawater. Marine Chem 1:279–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nambu K, van Hees PAW, Essén SA, Lundström US (2004) Assessing centrifugation technique for obtaining soil solution with respect to leaching of low-molecular-mass organic acids from pine roots. Geoderma 127:263–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Näsholm T, Persson J (2001) Plant acquisition of organic nitrogen in boreal forests. Physiol Plantarum 111:419–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Näsholm T, Ekblad A, Nordgren A, Giesler R, Högberg M, Högberg P (1998) Boreal forest plants take up organic nitrogen. Nature 392:914–916CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Neff JC, Chapin FS, Vitousek PM (2003) Breaks in the cycle: dissolved organic nitrogen in terrestrial ecosystems. Frontiers Ecol Environ 1:205–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pizzeghello D, Ferretti M, Masi A, Nardi S (2003) Water-soluble phenolic acids in soils under silver fir (Abies alba) forests. Frensius Environ Bull 12:984–988Google Scholar
  35. Schuelein J, Glaessgen WE, Hertkorn N, Schroeder P, Sandermann H, Kettrup A (1996) Detection and identification of the herbicide isoproturon and its metabolites in field samples after a heavy rainfall event. Int J Environ Anal Chem 65:193–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schwarz EL, Roberts WL, Pasquali M (2005) Analysis of plasma amino acids by HPLC with photodiode array and fluorescence detection. Clin Chim Acta 354:83–90PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Schwesig D Kalbitz K, Matzner E (2003) Mineralization of dissolved organic carbon in mineral soil solution of two forest soils. J Plant Nutr Soil Sci 166:585–593CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Stevenson FJ (1994) Humus chemistry – genesis, composition, reactions, 2nd edn. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  39. Strobel BW (2001) Influence of vegetation on low molecular weight carboxylic acids in soil solution – a review. Geoderma 99:169–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. van Hees PAW, Lundström US, Giesler R (2000) Low molecular weight organic acids and their Al complexes in soil solution – composition distribution and seasonal variation in three podzolized soils. Geoderma 94:173–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. van Hees PAW, Jones DL, Godbold DL (2002) Biodegradation of low molecular weight organic acids in forest soils. Soil Biol Biochem 34:1261–1272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. van Hees PAW, Jones DL, Godbold DL (2003) Biodegradation of low molecular weight organic acids in limed forest soils. Water Air Soil Pollut Focus 3(4):121–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. van Hees PAW, Jones DL, Finlay RF, Godbold DL, Lundström US (2005) The carbon we do not see – the impact of low molecular weight compounds on carbon dynamics and respiration in forest soils: a review. Soil Biol Biochem 37:1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Yu Z, Zhang Q, Kraus TEC, Dahlgren RA, Anastasio C, Zasoski RJ (2002) Contribution of amino compounds to dissolved organic nitrogen in forest soils. Biogeochemistry 61:173–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. A. W. van Hees
    • 1
  • E. Johansson
    • 1
  • D. L. Jones
    • 2
  1. 1.Man–Technology–Environment Research Centre, Department of Natural SciencesÖrebro UniversityÖrebroSweden
  2. 2.School of the Environment and Natural ResourcesUniversity of WalesBangorUK

Personalised recommendations