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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Department Soil Ecology - Prof. Dr. Eva Lehndorff

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Mikutta, R; Mikutta, C; Kalbitz, K; Scheel, T; Kaiser, K; Jahn, R: Biodegradation of forest floor organic matter bound to minerals via different binding mechanisms, Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 71, 2569-2590 (2007), doi:10.1016/j.gca.2007.03.002
Mineral-associated organic matter (OM) represents a large reservoir of organic carbon (OC) in natural environments. The factors controlling the extent of the mineral-mediated OC stabilization, however, are poorly understood. The protection of OM against biodegradation upon sorption to mineral phases is assumed to result from the formation of strong bonds that limit desorption. To test this, we studied the biodegradation of OM bound to goethite (α-FeOOH), pyrophyllite, and vermiculite via specific mechanisms as estimated from OC uptake in different background electrolytes and operationally defined as ‘ligand exchange’, ‘Ca2+ bridging’, and ‘van der Waals forces’. Organic matter extracted from an Oa forest floor horizon under Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst) was reacted with minerals at dissolved OC concentrations of not, vert, similar5–130 mg/L at pH 4. Goethite retained up to 30.1 mg OC/g predominantly by ‘ligand exchange’; pyrophyllite sorbed maximally 12.5 mg OC/g, largely via ‘van der Waals forces’ and ‘Ca2+ bridging’, while sorption of OM to vermiculite was 7.3 mg OC/g, mainly due to the formation of ‘Ca2+ bridges’. Aromatic OM components were selectively sorbed by all minerals (goethite much greater-than phyllosilicates). The sorption of OM was strongly hysteretic with the desorption into 0.01 M NaCl being larger for OM held by ‘Ca2+ bridges’ and ‘van der Waals forces’ than by ‘ligand exchange’. Incubation experiments under aerobic conditions (initial pH 4; 90 days) revealed that OM mainly bound to minerals by ‘ligand exchange’ was more resistant against mineralization than OM held by non-columbic interactions (‘van der Waals forces’). Calcium bridges enhanced the stability of sorbed OM, especially for vermiculite, but less than the binding via ‘ligand exchange’. Combined evidence suggests that the extent and rate of mineralization of mineral-associated OM are governed by desorption. The intrinsic stability of sorbed OM as related to the presence of resistant, lignin-derived aromatic components appears less decisive for the sorptive stabilization of OM than the involved binding mechanisms. In a given environment, the type of minerals present and the solution chemistry determine the operating binding mechanisms, thereby the extent of OM sorption and desorption, and thus ultimately the bioavailability of mineral-associated OM.
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