How do changes in bulk soil organic carbon content affect carbon concentrations in individual soil particle fractions?

Yang, X.M., Drury, C.F., Reynolds, W.D., and Yang, J.Y. (2016). "How do changes in bulk soil organic carbon content affect carbon concentrations in individual soil particle fractions?", Scientific Reports, 6(Article number: 27173), pp. 1-7. doi : 10.1038/srep27173  Access to full text

Abstract

We test the common assumption that organic carbon (OC) storage occurs on sand-sized soil particles only after the OC storage capacity on silt- and clay-sized particles is saturated. Soil samples from a Brookston clay loam in Southwestern Ontario were analysed for the OC concentrations in bulk soil, and on the clay (<2 μm), silt (2–53 μm) and sand (53–2000 μm) particle size fractions. The OC concentrations in bulk soil ranged from 4.7 to 70.8 g C kg−1 soil. The OC concentrations on all three particle size fractions were significantly related to the OC concentration of bulk soil. However, OC concentration increased slowly toward an apparent maximum on silt and clay, but this maximum was far greater than the maximum predicted by established C sequestration models. In addition, significant increases in OC associated with sand occurred when the bulk soil OC concentration exceeded 30 g C kg−1, but this increase occurred when the OC concentration on silt + clay was still far below the predicted storage capacity for silt and clay fractions. Since the OC concentrations in all fractions of Brookston clay loam soil continued to increase with increasing C (bulk soil OC content) input, we concluded that the concept of OC storage capacity requires further investigation.

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