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Complexity of soil organic matter; AMS (super 14) C analysis of soil lipid fractions and individual compounds.

Janet Rethemeyer, Christiane Kramer, Gerd Gleixner, Guido L B Wiesenberg, Lorenz Schwark, Nils Andersen, Marie-J Nadeau, Pieter M Grootes

Abstract


Radiocarbon measurements of different lipid fractions and individual compounds, isolated from soil samples collected on 2 different agricultural long-term study sites, located in the rural area of Rotthalmunster (Germany) and in the city of Halle/Saale (Germany), were analyzed to obtain information about sources and the stability of soil organic matter (SOM). Different lipid compound classes were isolated by automated solvent extraction and subsequent medium-pressure liquid chromatography. Generally, (super 14) C contents of lipid compound classes from topsoil samples of maize plots at Rotthalmunster are close to the modern atmospheric (super 14) C content. Lower (super 14) C values of aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons isolated from neutral lipids suggest a contribution of old carbon to these fractions. In contrast, (super 14) C values of bulk soil (52 pMC) as well as isolated lipid classes from Halle are highly depleted. This can be attributed to a significant contribution of fossil carbon at this site. Extremely low (super 14) C contents of aromatic (7 pMC) and aliphatic hydrocarbons (19 pMC) reflect the admixture of fossil hydrocarbons at the Halle site. Individual phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA), which are used as a proxy for viable microbial biomass, were isolated by preparative capillary gas chromatography (PCGC) from topsoils at Rotthalmunster and Halle. PLFA (super 14) C values are close to atmospheric (super 14) C values and, thus, indicate a clear microbial preference for relatively young SOM. At Rotthalmunster, the (super 14) C concentration of short-chain unsaturated PLFAs is not significantly different from that of the atmosphere, while the saturated PLFAs show a contribution of sub-recent SOM extending over the last decades. At Halle, up to 14% fossil carbon is incorporated in PLFAs n-C17:0 and cy-C18:0, which suggests the use of fossil carbon by soil microorganisms. Moreover, it can be concluded that the (super 14) C age of soil carbon is not indicative of its stability.

Keywords


accelerator mass spectra;aliphatic hydrocarbons;aromatic hydrocarbons;biomarkers ;biomass ;C 14;carbon ;carbon cycle;Central Europe;Europe ;fatty acids;gas chromatograms;geochemical cycle;Germany ;Halle Germany;hydrocarbons ;isotopes ;lipids ;mass spectra;organic acids;organic compounds;preparative capillary gas chromatography;radioactive isotopes;Rotthalmunster Germany;Saxony Anhalt Germany;soils ;spectra

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