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Black carbon contributes to organic matter in young soils in the Morteratsch proglacial area (Switzerland)


Eckmeier, Eileen; Mavris, Christian; Krebs, Rolf; Pichler, Barbara; Egli, Markus (2012). Black carbon contributes to organic matter in young soils in the Morteratsch proglacial area (Switzerland). Biogeosciences Discussions, 9(10):13899-13923.

Abstract

Most glacier forefields of the European Alps are progressively exposed since the glaciers reached their maximum expansion in the 1850s. Global warming and climate changes additionally promote the exposure of sediments in previously glaciated areas. In these proglacial areas, initial soils have started to develop so that they may offer a continuous chronosequence from 0 to 150 yr-old soils.
The build-up of organic matter is an important factor of soil formation, and not only autochthonous but also distant sources might contribute to its accumulation in young soils and surfaces of glacier forefields. Only little is known about black carbon in soils that develop in glacier forefields, although charred organic matter could be an important component of organic carbon in Alpine soils.
The aim of our study was to examine whether black carbon is present in the initial soils of a proglacial area, and to estimate its relative contribution to soil organic matter. We investigated soil samples from 35 sites distributed over the whole proglacial area of Morteratsch, covering a chronosequence from 0 to 150 yr. BC concentrations were determined in fine-earth using the benzene polycarboxylic acid (BPCA) marker method. We found that the proportion of BC to total Corg was related to the time since the surface was exposed. Soils on surfaces exposed less than 40 yr ago contained the highest proportion of BC. The absolute concentrations of BC in fine-earth were generally low but increased in soils that had been exposed for more than 40 yr.
Charred organic matter occurred in the whole area, and it was a main component of soil organic matter in young soils, where total Corg concentrations were very low. Specific initial microbial communities consequently may profit from this additional C source during the first years of soil evolution and potentially promote soil development in its early stage.

Abstract

Most glacier forefields of the European Alps are progressively exposed since the glaciers reached their maximum expansion in the 1850s. Global warming and climate changes additionally promote the exposure of sediments in previously glaciated areas. In these proglacial areas, initial soils have started to develop so that they may offer a continuous chronosequence from 0 to 150 yr-old soils.
The build-up of organic matter is an important factor of soil formation, and not only autochthonous but also distant sources might contribute to its accumulation in young soils and surfaces of glacier forefields. Only little is known about black carbon in soils that develop in glacier forefields, although charred organic matter could be an important component of organic carbon in Alpine soils.
The aim of our study was to examine whether black carbon is present in the initial soils of a proglacial area, and to estimate its relative contribution to soil organic matter. We investigated soil samples from 35 sites distributed over the whole proglacial area of Morteratsch, covering a chronosequence from 0 to 150 yr. BC concentrations were determined in fine-earth using the benzene polycarboxylic acid (BPCA) marker method. We found that the proportion of BC to total Corg was related to the time since the surface was exposed. Soils on surfaces exposed less than 40 yr ago contained the highest proportion of BC. The absolute concentrations of BC in fine-earth were generally low but increased in soils that had been exposed for more than 40 yr.
Charred organic matter occurred in the whole area, and it was a main component of soil organic matter in young soils, where total Corg concentrations were very low. Specific initial microbial communities consequently may profit from this additional C source during the first years of soil evolution and potentially promote soil development in its early stage.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2012
Deposited On:23 Nov 2012 14:37
Last Modified:21 Nov 2016 14:01
Publisher:Copernicus Publications
Series Name:Biogeosciences Discussions
ISSN:1810-6285
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.5194/bgd-9-13899-2012

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