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Title: Spatial variation in microbial processes controlling carbon mineralization within soils and sediments

Abstract

Soils have a defining role in global carbon cycling, having one of the largest dynamic stocks of C on earth—3300 Pg of C are stored in soils, which is three-times the amount stored in the atmosphere and more than the terrestrial land plants. An important control on soil organic matter (SOM) quantities is the mineralization rate. It is well recognized that the rate and extent of SOM mineralization is affected by climatic factors and mineral-organic matter associations. What remained elusive is to what extent constraints on microbial metabolism induced by the respiratory pathway, and specifically the electron acceptor in respiration, control overall rates of carbon mineralization in soils. Therefore, physical factors limiting oxygen diffusion such as soil texture and aggregate size (soil structure) may therefore be central controls on C mineralization rates. The goal of our research was therefore to determine if variations in microbial metabolic rates induced by anaerobic microsites in soils are a major control on SOM mineralization rates and thus storage. We performed a combination of laboratory experiments and field investigations will be performed to fulfill our research objectives. We used laboratory studies to examine fundamental factors of respiratory constraints (i.e., electron acceptor) on organic matter mineralizationmore » rates. We ground our laboratory studies with both manipulation of field samples and in-field measurements. Selection of the field sites is guided by variation in soil texture and structure while having (other environmental/soil factors constant. Our laboratory studies defined redox gradients and variations in microbial metabolism operating at the aggregate-scale (cm-scale) within soils using a novel constructed diffusion reactor. We further examined micro-scale variation in terminal electron accepting processes and resulting C mineralization rates within re-packed soils. A major outcome of our research is the ability to quantitatively place the importance of aggregate-based heterogeneity in microbial redox processes and the resulting lack of oxygen on the rate of carbon mineralization. Collectively, our research shows that anaerobic microsites are prevalent in soils and are important regulators of soil carbon persistence, shifting microbial metabolism to less efficient anaerobic respiration and selectively protecting otherwise bioavailable, reduced organic compounds such as lipids and waxes from decomposition. Further, shifting from anaerobic to aerobic conditions leads to a 10-fold increase in volume-specific mineralization rate, illustrating the sensitivity of anaerobically protected carbon to disturbance. Vulnerability of anaerobically protected carbon to future climate or land use change thus constitutes a yet unrecognized soil carbon-climate feedback that should be incorporated into terrestrial ecosystem models.« less

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1];  [2];  [3]
  1. Stanford Univ., CA (United States)
  2. Oregon State Univ., Corvallis, OR (United States)
  3. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Stanford Univ., CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
1400275
Report Number(s):
DOE-Stanford-DE-SC0010546
DOE Contract Number:  
SC0010546
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
58 GEOSCIENCES; 54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; soil; carbon cycle; microbial respiration; oxygen limitations

Citation Formats

Fendorf, Scott, Kleber, Markus, and Nico, Peter. Spatial variation in microbial processes controlling carbon mineralization within soils and sediments. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.2172/1400275.
Fendorf, Scott, Kleber, Markus, & Nico, Peter. Spatial variation in microbial processes controlling carbon mineralization within soils and sediments. United States. doi:10.2172/1400275.
Fendorf, Scott, Kleber, Markus, and Nico, Peter. Thu . "Spatial variation in microbial processes controlling carbon mineralization within soils and sediments". United States. doi:10.2172/1400275. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1400275.
@article{osti_1400275,
title = {Spatial variation in microbial processes controlling carbon mineralization within soils and sediments},
author = {Fendorf, Scott and Kleber, Markus and Nico, Peter},
abstractNote = {Soils have a defining role in global carbon cycling, having one of the largest dynamic stocks of C on earth—3300 Pg of C are stored in soils, which is three-times the amount stored in the atmosphere and more than the terrestrial land plants. An important control on soil organic matter (SOM) quantities is the mineralization rate. It is well recognized that the rate and extent of SOM mineralization is affected by climatic factors and mineral-organic matter associations. What remained elusive is to what extent constraints on microbial metabolism induced by the respiratory pathway, and specifically the electron acceptor in respiration, control overall rates of carbon mineralization in soils. Therefore, physical factors limiting oxygen diffusion such as soil texture and aggregate size (soil structure) may therefore be central controls on C mineralization rates. The goal of our research was therefore to determine if variations in microbial metabolic rates induced by anaerobic microsites in soils are a major control on SOM mineralization rates and thus storage. We performed a combination of laboratory experiments and field investigations will be performed to fulfill our research objectives. We used laboratory studies to examine fundamental factors of respiratory constraints (i.e., electron acceptor) on organic matter mineralization rates. We ground our laboratory studies with both manipulation of field samples and in-field measurements. Selection of the field sites is guided by variation in soil texture and structure while having (other environmental/soil factors constant. Our laboratory studies defined redox gradients and variations in microbial metabolism operating at the aggregate-scale (cm-scale) within soils using a novel constructed diffusion reactor. We further examined micro-scale variation in terminal electron accepting processes and resulting C mineralization rates within re-packed soils. A major outcome of our research is the ability to quantitatively place the importance of aggregate-based heterogeneity in microbial redox processes and the resulting lack of oxygen on the rate of carbon mineralization. Collectively, our research shows that anaerobic microsites are prevalent in soils and are important regulators of soil carbon persistence, shifting microbial metabolism to less efficient anaerobic respiration and selectively protecting otherwise bioavailable, reduced organic compounds such as lipids and waxes from decomposition. Further, shifting from anaerobic to aerobic conditions leads to a 10-fold increase in volume-specific mineralization rate, illustrating the sensitivity of anaerobically protected carbon to disturbance. Vulnerability of anaerobically protected carbon to future climate or land use change thus constitutes a yet unrecognized soil carbon-climate feedback that should be incorporated into terrestrial ecosystem models.},
doi = {10.2172/1400275},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Thu Oct 19 00:00:00 EDT 2017},
month = {Thu Oct 19 00:00:00 EDT 2017}
}

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