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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Grassland, Soil and Water Research Laboratory

Title: Soil type modifies response of soil carbon pools to an atmospheric CO2 gradient

item Procter, Andrew
item Gill, Richard
item Polley, Wayne
item Jackson, Robert

Submitted to: Ecological Society of America Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/22/2011
Publication Date: 8/7/2011
Citation: Procter, A., Gill, R., Polley, H.W., Jackson, R. 2011. Soil type modifies response of soil carbon pools to an atmospheric CO2 gradient. In: Proceedings of the Ecological Society of America, August 7-12, 2011, Austin, Texas.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Literature suggests that as atmospheric CO2 rises, soil carbon will cycle more rapidly as plants input greater amounts of labile carbon into the soil. This labile carbon may stimulate the decomposition of more slowly-cycling soil organic matter through microbial priming. We test these hypotheses in a prairie exposed to a preindustrial-to-future gradient (250-500ppm) of CO2 for four growing seasons. The experiment contains two contrasting soil types, allowing us to ask (1) How does the CO2 gradient affect the sizes of active versus slow-cycling soil organic carbon (SOC) pools? And 2) Does the CO2 effect differ in a clay-rich versus a sandy soil? To investigate these questions, we incubated soil from the CO2 gradient for one year in the lab, under constant temperature and moisture. Carbon mineralization rate (Cmin) was measured throughout the year, and modeled with a two-pool exponential decay curve to estimate the size of SOC pools. The clay-rich Houston soil supported the hypothesis that SOC cycles more rapidly under elevated CO2, but the sandy Bastrop soil did not. Based on the exponential decay model, the size of the active C pool increased linearly with increasing CO2 in the clay-rich Houston soil, but did not change in the sandy Bastrop soil. The decay model also estimated that the size of the slow C pool did not change with CO2 treatment in either soil. This does not support the microbial priming hypothesis, which predicts a slight decline in the slow SOC pool at elevated CO2. Although Houston soil had roughly three times higher SOC concentration (26.7 g/kg) than Bastrop soil (8.2 g/kg), Bastrop SOC was more labile. Cmin rate per gram SOC, an indicator of lability, was at least twice as large in Bastrop compared to Houston soil. The decay model produced similar results, estimating that the active SOC pool constituted a greater proportion of total SOC in Bastrop soil (0.67%) than Houston soil (0.22%). Given its influence on active SOC accumulation with CO2 treatment, soil type may be an important factor in predicting soil C sequestration under future CO2 levels.

Last Modified: 10/17/2017
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