The Stable Isotopes Approach to Study C and N Sequestration Processes in a Plant–Soil System

  • Giuseppe Celano
  • Francesco Alluvione
  • Mostafa Abdel Aziz Ali Mohamed
  • Riccardo Spaccini


This chapter reviews the main methods for tracing N and C stable isotopes in natural and agricultural systems following organic and mineral amendments to soil. Moreover, we present the results obtained from two field experiments conducted, within the MESCOSAGR project, to evaluate either the fate and flow rate of N added as 15N-compost in a maize–soil system or the contribution of sorghum roots to soil organic carbon. Compost contribution to plant nutrition was about 20% of applied N in the first experimentation year, while this value decreased in the following 2 years. The mineralization rate in the first year was anyhow variable depending on compost maturity and composition, while compost amendments mostly affected the inclusion of 15N in soil macro-aggregates. The compost-derived nitrogen sequestered in soil, due to repeated amendments, was estimated to account for 34.2, 38.2 and 42.5% of total N-compost for the first, second and third years, respectively. On the other hand, it was found that soil carbon derived from sorghum residues reached about 28% after 3 years, though this percentage decreased with depth, and more rapidly below 30 cm.


Soil Organic Carbon Isotopic Signature Isotopic Fractionation Natural Abundance Sweet Sorghum 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giuseppe Celano
    • 1
  • Francesco Alluvione
    • 2
  • Mostafa Abdel Aziz Ali Mohamed
    • 1
  • Riccardo Spaccini
    • 3
  1. 1.Dipartimento Scienze dei Sistemi Colturali Forestali e dell’AmbienteUniversità degli Studi della BasilicataPotenzaItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Agronomia, Selvicoltura e Gestione del TerritorioUniversità di TorinoTorinoItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Scienza del Suolo, della Pianta, dell’Ambiente e delle Produzioni AnimaliUniversità di Napoli “Federico II”PorticiItaly

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