Heterogeneity of the chemical composition and thermal stability of particulate organic matter in French forest soils

Abstract : In temperate forests, soils contain a significant part of the ecosystem carbon (C) stock that can be subjected to C losses upon global changes. In forest soils, particulate organic matter (POM) is a major contributor to the labile C pool and its dynamics can significantly influence the overall total soil organic carbon stock. However, POM has been overlooked in forest soils, specifically in deep horizons. We isolated the POM fraction of mineral soil samples collected in 52 French forest sites, using a size- (> 50 μm) and density- (< 1.6 g·cm−3) fractionation scheme. These soil samples presented variability in terms of depth (0–10 cm; 40–80 cm), soil class (dystric Cambisol, eutric Cambisol, entic Podzol) and vegetation type (deciduous, coniferous). First, we determined the POM chemical composition and thermal stability using elemental analysis, mid infrared-attenuated total reflectance spectroscopy and Rock-Eval thermal analysis. Then, we assessed how depth, soil class and vegetation type influenced POM chemistry and thermal stability in these temperate forest soils. Depth, soil class and vegetation type were all important factors influencing POM chemistry and thermal stability. Variations in POM chemistry (higher C/N ratio, lower ether + alcohol and carbonyl + carboxyl ratios and decrease in hydrogen-rich compounds) and increase in thermal stability with depth suggested different POM input sources for the surface and deep soil layers and an increased biogeochemical stability of POM in deep soil layers. Whatever the vegetation, POM in eutric Cambisols had lower aliphatic and higher aromatic ratios than POM in dystric Cambisols. POM in soils under deciduous trees had higher aliphatic and carbonyl + carboxyl ratios and lower aromatic ratio, more hydrogen-rich and less oxygen-rich compounds than POM in soils under coniferous trees, reflecting the difference in litter chemistry between the two vegetation types. POM from deciduous plots was also significantly more thermally stable than from coniferous plots, suggesting a higher biogeochemical stability for POM in deciduous forest soils. This study highlights the variations in POM chemistry and thermal stability existing within and among soil profiles and the role of depth, soil class and vegetation type in these variations. It appears that if POM can be regarded as a labile carbon fraction in soils, its lability varies depending on the ecosystem (soil, vegetation) and depth considered.
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Laure Soucémarianadin, Lauric Cécillon, Claire Chenu, François Baudin, Manuel Nicolas, et al.. Heterogeneity of the chemical composition and thermal stability of particulate organic matter in French forest soils. Geoderma, Elsevier, 2019, 342, pp.65-74. ⟨10.1016/j.geoderma.2019.02.008⟩. ⟨hal-02019197⟩

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