Soils are a globally important reservoir of organic carbon. There is a growing understanding that interactions with soil mineral phases contribute to the accumulation and retention of otherwise degradable organic matter (OM) in soils and sediments. However, the bioavailability of organic compounds in mineral-organic-associations (MOAs), especially under varying environmental conditions is not well known. To assess the impact of mineral association and warming on the decomposition of an easily respirable organic substrate (glucose), we conducted a series of laboratory incubations at different temperatures with field-collected soils from 10 to 20 cm, 50–60 cm, and 80–90 cm depth. We added 13C-labeled glucose either directly to native soil or sorbed to one of two synthetic iron (hydr)oxide phases (goethite and ferrihydrite) that differ in crystallinity and affinity for sorbing glucose. We found that: (1) association with the Fe (hydr)oxide minerals reduced the decomposition rate of glucose by > 99.5% relative to rate of decomposition for free glucose in soil; (2) the respiration rate per gram carbon did not differ appreciably with depth, suggesting a similar degree of decomposability for native C across depths and that under the incubation conditions total carbon availability represents the principal limitation on respiration under these conditions as opposed to reduced abundance of decomposers or moisture and oxygen limitations; (3) addition of free glucose enhanced native carbon respiration at all soil depths with the largest effect at 50–60 cm; (4) in general respiration of the organo-mineral complex (glucose and iron-(hydr)oxide) was less temperature sensitive than was respiration of native carbon; (5) the addition of organic free mineral decreased the rate of soil respiration in the intermediate 50–60 cm depth soil. The results emphasize the key role of MOAs in regulating the fluxes of carbon from soils to the atmosphere and in turn the stocks of soil carbon.
Porras, R. C., Hicks Pries, C. E., Torn, M. S., & Nico, P. S. (2018). Synthetic iron (hydr)oxide-glucose associations in subsurface soil: Effects on decomposability of mineral associated carbon. Science of the Total Environment, 613–614, 342–351. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.08.290