Vergara Sosa, M; Lehndorff, E; Rodionov, A; Gocke, M; Sandhage-Hofmann, A; Amelung, W: Micro-scale resolution of carbon turnover in soil - Insights from laser ablation isotope ratio m, Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 159, 108279 (2021), doi:10.1016/j.soilbio.2021.108279
Soil aggregates may stabilize carbon at mineral surfaces and in the interior, but resolving such micro-scale carbon (C) turnover at a scale of soil aggregates <2 mm is challenged by C contaminations during sample preparation such as from resin embedding. Here we introduce a novel C-free embedding method using silica gel for water glass formation, and applied it to soil aggregates from a C3/C4 vegetation change soil chronosequence (4, 10 and 19 years of Miscanthus cropping on former C3 soil) for subsequent δ13C and C turnover analyses using laser ablation isotope ratio mass spectrometry (LA-IRMS). We hypothesized that C-free embedding allows for the first time the comparison of C turnover at soil aggregates both in their center and at their outer surface. We found that using water glass embedding enabled δ13C analyses via LA-IRMS in all parts of the sample, free of any contaminations. There was a large micro-scale heterogeneity in δ 13C signals within aggregates, which increased with cropping duration (total range − 5.5 to –41.5‰). Noteworthy, after 19 years Miscanthus materials were still found preferentially at soil aggregate surfaces and hardly in interior parts, documenting slow aggregate turnover but also success of the embedding technique for future micro-scale C dynamic analyses in environmental samples.
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