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Transformation of n-alkanes from plant to soil: a review


Thomas, Carrie L; Jansen, Boris; van Loon, E Emiel; Wiesenberg, Guido L B (2021). Transformation of n-alkanes from plant to soil: a review. SOIL, 7(2):785-809.

Abstract

Despite the importance of soil organic matter (SOM) in the global carbon cycle, there remain many open questions regarding its formation and preservation. The study of individual organic compound classes that make up SOM, such as lipid biomarkers including n-alkanes, can provide insight into the cycling of bulk SOM. While studies of lipid biomarkers, particularly n-alkanes, have increased in number in the past few decades, only a limited number have focused on the transformation of these compounds following deposition in soil archives. We performed a systematic review to consolidate the available information on plant-derived n-alkanes and their transformation from plant to soil. Our major findings were (1) a nearly ubiquitous trend of decreased total concentration of n-alkanes either with time in litterbag experiments or with depth in open plant–soil systems and (2) preferential degradation of odd-chain length and shorter chain length n-alkanes represented by a decrease in either carbon preference index (CPI) or odd-over-even predominance (OEP) with depth, indicating degradation of the n-alkane signal or a shift in vegetation composition over time. The review also highlighted a lack of data transparency and standardization across studies of lipid biomarkers, making analysis and synthesis of published data time-consuming and difficult. We recommend that the community move towards more uniform and systematic reporting of biomarker data. Furthermore, as the number of studies examining the complete leaf–litter–soil continuum is very limited as well as unevenly distributed over geographical regions, climate zones, and soil types, future data collection should focus on underrepresented areas as well as quantifying the transformation of n-alkanes through the complete continuum from plant to soil.

Abstract

Despite the importance of soil organic matter (SOM) in the global carbon cycle, there remain many open questions regarding its formation and preservation. The study of individual organic compound classes that make up SOM, such as lipid biomarkers including n-alkanes, can provide insight into the cycling of bulk SOM. While studies of lipid biomarkers, particularly n-alkanes, have increased in number in the past few decades, only a limited number have focused on the transformation of these compounds following deposition in soil archives. We performed a systematic review to consolidate the available information on plant-derived n-alkanes and their transformation from plant to soil. Our major findings were (1) a nearly ubiquitous trend of decreased total concentration of n-alkanes either with time in litterbag experiments or with depth in open plant–soil systems and (2) preferential degradation of odd-chain length and shorter chain length n-alkanes represented by a decrease in either carbon preference index (CPI) or odd-over-even predominance (OEP) with depth, indicating degradation of the n-alkane signal or a shift in vegetation composition over time. The review also highlighted a lack of data transparency and standardization across studies of lipid biomarkers, making analysis and synthesis of published data time-consuming and difficult. We recommend that the community move towards more uniform and systematic reporting of biomarker data. Furthermore, as the number of studies examining the complete leaf–litter–soil continuum is very limited as well as unevenly distributed over geographical regions, climate zones, and soil types, future data collection should focus on underrepresented areas as well as quantifying the transformation of n-alkanes through the complete continuum from plant to soil.

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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
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Soil Science
Uncontrolled Keywords:Soil Science
Language:English
Date:25 November 2021
Deposited On:06 Jan 2022 13:44
Last Modified:17 Jun 2024 03:35
Publisher:Copernicus Publications
ISSN:2199-398X
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-7-785-2021
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID200021_188684
  • : Project TitleIQ-SASS - Improved Quantitative Source Assessment of organic matter in Soils and Sediments using molecular markers and inverse modeling
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)