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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Department Soil Ecology - Prof. Dr. Eva Lehndorff

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Schwesig, D; Kalbitz, K; Matzner, E: Mineralization of dissolved organic carbon in mineral soil solution of two forest soils, Journal of Plant Nutr. Soil Sci., 166, 585-593 (2003)
Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) constitutes an important carbon input flux to forested mineral soils. Seepage from mineral subsoils contains only small amounts of DOC because of mineralization, sorption or the formation of particulate organic matter (POM). However, the relation between these processes is largely unknown. Therefore, the objective of this study was to quantify the mineralization of DOC from different depths of forest soils, and to determine degradation rate constants for rapidly and slowly degradable DOC pools. Mineralization of DOC and formation of POM in mineral soil solution from two forested sites in northern Bavaria (Germany) were quantified in a 97 days laboratory incubation experiment. Furthermore, spectroscopic properties such as specific UV absorption and a humification index derived from fluorescence emission spectrometry were measured before and after incubation. DOC in all samples turned out to belong mainly to the stable DOC pool (> 95 %) with half-lives ranging from years to decades. Spectroscopic properties were not suitable to predict the mineralization of DOC from mineral soils. However, together with data on DOC from the forest floor and long-term data on DOC concentrations in the field they helped to identify the processes involved in C sequestration in mineral subsoils. Mineralization, formation of POM, and probably sorption seem all to be responsible for maintaining low concentrations of DOC in the upper mineral soil. DOC below the upper mineral soil is highly resistant to mineralization, and thus the further decrease of DOC concentrations in the subsoil as observed under field conditions cannot be attributed to mineralization. Our results suggest that sorption and to some minor extent the formation of POM may be responsible for C sequestration in the subsoil.
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