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Forest-derived lignin biomarkers in an Australian oxisol decrease substantially after 90 years of pasture


Heim, A; Hofmann, A; Schmidt, M W I (2010). Forest-derived lignin biomarkers in an Australian oxisol decrease substantially after 90 years of pasture. Organic Geochemistry, 41(11):1219-1224.

Abstract

The dynamics of soil organic matter are a key factor in controlling the terrestrial carbon cycle. Compound specific stable carbon isotope analysis has given new insight in to the stability of individual organic molecules in soil. For lignin, one of the major plant compounds, available data suggest the existence of both a labile (turnover time <1 year) and a relatively stable (turnover time in the range of decades) pool. However, these data derive almost exclusively from agricultural soils in temperate climates. In order to extend the range both in ecosystem type and observed time span, we analysed a pasture soil in subtropical Australia that had experienced a land use change from rainforest 90 years earlier. We determined the concentration and isotopic signature of lignin biomarkers and compared them to those in an existing rainforest soil nearby and to samples of the respective vegetation. The land use change shifted both the relative abundance of lignin biomarkers and their isotopic signatures. In particular, the isotope data indicate that the pasture soil contains only small proportions of inherited rainforest-derived lignin biomarkers, which are mostly close to or below detection limit. These drastic changes in biomarker composition indicate that the original lignin structure had little chance to persist in this soil over a century. Thus, the stable soil organic carbon identified an earlier study of this soil is probably highly altered material and lignin biomarkers are not a suitable proxy of this stable carbon.

Abstract

The dynamics of soil organic matter are a key factor in controlling the terrestrial carbon cycle. Compound specific stable carbon isotope analysis has given new insight in to the stability of individual organic molecules in soil. For lignin, one of the major plant compounds, available data suggest the existence of both a labile (turnover time <1 year) and a relatively stable (turnover time in the range of decades) pool. However, these data derive almost exclusively from agricultural soils in temperate climates. In order to extend the range both in ecosystem type and observed time span, we analysed a pasture soil in subtropical Australia that had experienced a land use change from rainforest 90 years earlier. We determined the concentration and isotopic signature of lignin biomarkers and compared them to those in an existing rainforest soil nearby and to samples of the respective vegetation. The land use change shifted both the relative abundance of lignin biomarkers and their isotopic signatures. In particular, the isotope data indicate that the pasture soil contains only small proportions of inherited rainforest-derived lignin biomarkers, which are mostly close to or below detection limit. These drastic changes in biomarker composition indicate that the original lignin structure had little chance to persist in this soil over a century. Thus, the stable soil organic carbon identified an earlier study of this soil is probably highly altered material and lignin biomarkers are not a suitable proxy of this stable carbon.

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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:2010
Deposited On:29 Dec 2010 15:59
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 14:26
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0146-6380
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orggeochem.2010.07.005

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