Colorado mountains
From Long-Term Data to Understanding: Toward a Predictive Ecology
2015 LTER ASM Estes Park, CO - August 30 - September 2, 2015

Does litter impart a detectable chemical signal on soil DOC? DOC fluorescence signatures in H.J. Andrews soils undergoing long-term litter manipulations

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Kate Lajtha
April Strid
Baek Soo Lee

Soil dissolved organic carbon (DOC) is a small but crucial part of the forest carbon cycle. Characterizing the relationship between organic matter inputs to soil and DOC chemistry is crucial to understanding the ultimate fate of root carbon, fallen wood and needles. Chemical differences in the DOC pool may help to explain whether fractions are sorbed to mineral surfaces and contribute to accumulation of soil organic carbon, respired as CO2, or exported. Soil solution DOC was sampled from the detrital input and removal treatment (DIRT) plots located in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, OR to determine whether detrital inputs impart a detectable signal on DOC in mineral soil. Multiple types of fresh litter extracts, along with lysimeter and soil extracts from DIRT treatment plots were characterized using UV-Vis and fluorescence spectroscopy coupled with the Cory and McKnight (2005) parallel factor analysis (PARAFAC) model. Principal component analysis of 13 unique fluorophores distinguished using PARAFAC show that litter and soil extracts (needles, wood of decomposition Class 1, Class 3 and Class 5, O-horizon, and A-horizon) each have distinct fluorescence signatures. However, while litter-leached DOC chemistry varies by litter type, neither lysimeter-collected DOC or soil extracts show statistically significant differences in fluorescence signatures among treatments, even after 17 years of litter manipulations. The lack of observed differences among DIRT treatments suggests a “Soil Blender” hypothesis whereby both abiotic and biotic mechanisms effectively homogenize organic carbon constituents within the dissolved pool. The results of this work emphasize the ability of sorption and biodegradation to homogenize soil DOC and demonstrate that fluorescence can be an effective fingerprinting technique for soil DOC composition.