The influence of soil organic matter chemistry and site/soil properties in predicting the decomposability of tundra soils

Thursday, December 14, 2017 - 08:00
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With the increase in high latitude warming, there is a need to better understand the potential vulnerability of soil organic matter (SOM) stored in Arctic regions. In this study, we used mid infrared spectroscopy (MidIR) to determine the influence of soil chemistry and site properties in the short-term mineralization potential of SOM stored in tundra soils. Soils from the active and permafrost layers were collected from four tundra sites on the Coastal Plain, and Arctic Foothills of the North Slope of Alaska and were incubated for 60 days at a range of temperatures. Site and soil properties including acidic versus non-acidic tundra, lowland versus upland areas, total soil organic carbon (TOC) and total nitrogen (TN) concentrations, 60-day carbon mineralization potential (CMP), MidIR spectra and the chemical composition of the SOM stored in these soils were determined. Partial least squares (PLS) models for CMP versus MidIR spectra were produced upon splitting the dataset into site and soil properties categories. We found that SOM composition determined by MidIR spectroscopy was most effective in predicting CMP for tundra soils and it was most relevant for the active-layer mineral and upper permafrost soil horizons and/or soils with C concentrations of 10% or lower. Analysis of the factor loadings and standardized beta coefficients from the CMP PLS models indicated that spectral bands associated with clay contents, phenolic OH, aliphatic, silicates, carboxylic acids, and polysaccharides were influential for lower TOC soils, but these bands were less important for higher TOC soils. High TOC soils were influenced by a combination of other factors. Our results suggest that different factors affect the short-term CMP of SOM in tundra soils depending on the amount of TOC present. We show MidIR as a powerful tool for quickly and reasonably estimating the short-term CMP of tundra soils. Widespread application of MidIR measurements to already collected and archived tundra region soils could provide a quick and reliable assessment of the CMP of these soils, reduce the need for incubation studies, and contribute to upscaling and model benchmarking of SOM mineralization of tundra soils.

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