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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 15, issue 9 | Copyright
Biogeosciences, 15, 2743-2760, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 07 May 2018

Research article | 07 May 2018

Massive carbon addition to an organic-rich Andosol increased the subsoil but not the topsoil carbon stock

Antonia Zieger1, Klaus Kaiser2, Pedro Ríos Guayasamín3, and Martin Kaupenjohann1 Antonia Zieger et al.
  • 1Chair of Soil Science, Institute of Ecology, Technische Universität Berlin, Ernst-Reuter-Platz 1, 10587 Berlin, Germany
  • 2Soil Science and Soil Protection, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Von-Seckendorff-Platz 3, 06120 Halle (Saale), Germany
  • 3Laboratorio de Ecología Tropical Natural y Aplicada, Universidad Estatal Amazónica, Campus Principal Km 2.1/2 via a Napo (Paso Lateral) Puyo, Pastaza, Ecuador

Abstract. Andosols are among the most carbon-rich soils, with an average of 254Mgha−1 organic carbon (OC) in the upper 100cm. A current theory proposes an upper limit for OC stocks independent of increasing carbon input, because of finite binding capacities of the soil mineral phase. We tested the possible limits in OC stocks for Andosols with already large OC concentrations and stocks (212gkg−1 in the first horizon, 301Mgha−1 in the upper 100cm). The soils received large inputs of 1800MgOCha−1 as sawdust within a time period of 20 years. Adjacent soils without sawdust application served as controls. We determined total OC stocks as well as the storage forms of organic matter (OM) of five horizons down to 100cm depth. Storage forms considered were pyrogenic carbon, OM of <1.6gcm−3 density and with little to no interaction with the mineral phase, and strongly mineral-bonded OM forming particles of densities between 1.6 and 2.0gcm−3 or >2.0gcm−3. The two fractions >1.6gcm−3 were also analysed for aluminium-organic matter complexes (Al–OM complexes) and imogolite-type phases using ammonium-oxalate–oxalic-acid extraction and X-ray diffraction (XRD).

Pyrogenic organic carbon represented only up to 5wt% of OC, and thus contributed little to soil OM. In the two topsoil horizons, the fraction between 1.6 and 2.0gcm−3 had 65–86wt% of bulk soil OC and was dominated by Al–OM complexes. In deeper horizons, the fraction >2.0gcm−3 contained 80–97wt% of the bulk soil's total OC and was characterized by a mixture of Al–OM complexes and imogolite-type phases, with proportions of imogolite-type phases increasing with depth. In response to the sawdust application, only the OC stock at 25–50cm depth increased significantly (α = 0.05, 1 − β = 0.8). The increase was entirely due to increased OC in the two fractions >1.6gcm−3. However, there was no significant increase in the total OC stocks within the upper 100cm.

The results suggest that long-term large OC inputs cannot be taken up by the obviously OC-saturated topsoil but induce downward migration and gradually increasing storage of OC in subsurface soil layers. The small additional OC accumulation despite the extremely large OC input over 20 years, however, shows that long time periods of high input are needed to promote the downward movement and deep soil storage of OC.

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We tested a current theory, which proposes an upper limit for organic carbon (OC) stocks independent of increasing carbon input for a soil with already large OC stocks. The soil received a large additional carbon input as sawdust. In response, only the OC stock in 25–50 cm depth increased significantly. We assume, that due to saturation in 0–25 cm, added OC migrates downwards and becomes retained in 25–50 cm. This indicates the possibility to sustainably increase already large OC stocks further.
We tested a current theory, which proposes an upper limit for organic carbon (OC) stocks...