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Title: Large fluxes and rapid turnover of mineral-associated carbon across topographic gradients in a humid tropical forest: insights from paired 14C analysis

It has been proposed that the large soil carbon (C) stocks of humid tropical forests result predominantly from C stabilization by reactive minerals, whereas oxygen (O2) limitation of decomposition has received much less attention. We examined the importance of these factors in explaining patterns of C stocks and turnover in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico, using radiocarbon (14C) measurements of contemporary and archived samples. Samples from ridge, slope, and valley positions spanned three soil orders (Ultisol, Oxisol, Inceptisol) representative of humid tropical forests, and differed in texture, reactive metal content, O2 availability, and root biomass. Mineral-associated C comprised the large majority (87 ± 2%, n = 30) of total soil C. Turnover of most mineral-associated C (74 ± 4%) was rapid (9 to 29 years, mean and SE 20 ± 2 years) in 25 of 30 soil samples across surface horizons (0–10 and 10–20 cm depths) and all topographic positions, independent of variation in reactive metal concentrations and clay content. Passive C with centennial – millennial turnover was much less abundant (26%), even at 10–20 cm depths. Carbon turnover times and concentrations significantly increased with concentrations of reduced iron (Fe(II)) across all samples, suggesting that O2 availability may havemore » limited the decomposition of mineral associated C over decadal scales. Steady-state inputs of mineral-associated C were similar among the three topographic positions, and could represent 10–30% of annual litterfall production (estimated by doubling aboveground litterfall). Observed trends in mineral-associated Δ14C over time could not be fit using the single pool model used in many other studies, which generated contradictory relationships between turnover and Δ14C as compared with a more realistic constrained two-pool model. The large C fluxes in surface and near-surface soils implied by our data suggest that other studies using single-pool Δ14C models of mineral-associated C dynamics, unconstrained by multiple time points, may have systematically underestimated C turnover.« less
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Biogeosciences Discussions (Online)
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Journal Name: Biogeosciences Discussions (Online); Journal Volume: 12; Journal Issue: 2; Journal ID: ISSN 1810-6285
European Geosciences Union
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