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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Department Soil Ecology - Prof. Dr. Eva Lehndorff

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Schneider, M; Scheel, T; Mikutta, R; van Hees, P; Kalbitz, K: Sorptive stabilization of organic matter by amorphous Al hydroxide, Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 74(5), 1606-1619 (2010), doi:10.1016/j.gca.2009.12.017
Amorphous Al hydroxides (am-Al(OH)3) strongly sorb and by this means likely protect dissolved organic matter (OM) against microbial decay in soils. We carried out batch sorption experiments (pH 4.5; 40 mg organic C L−1) with OM extracted from organic horizons under a Norway spruce and a European beech forest. The stabilization of OM by sorption was analyzed by comparing the CO2 mineralized during the incubation of sorbed and non-sorbed OM. The mineralization of OM was evaluated based in terms of (i) the availability of the am-Al(OH)3, thus surface OM loadings, (ii) spectral properties of OM, and (iii) the presence of phosphate as a competitor for OM. This was done by varying the solid-to-solution ratio (SSR = 0.02–1.2 g L−1) during sorption. At low SSRs, hence limited am-Al(OH)3 availability, only small portions of dissolved OM were sorbed; for OM from Oa horizons, the mineralization of the sorbed fraction exceeded that of the original dissolved OM. The likely reason is competition with phosphate for sorption sites favouring the formation of weak mineral–organic bindings and the surface accumulation of N-rich, less aromatic and less complex OM. This small fraction controlled the mineralization of sorbed OM even at higher SSRs. At higher SSRs, i.e., with am-Al(OH)3 more available, competition of phosphate decreased and aromatic compounds were sorbed selectively, which resulted in pronounced resistance of sorbed OM against decay. The combined OC mineralization of sorbed and non-sorbed OM was 12–65% less than that of the original DOM. Sorbed OM contributed only little to the overall OC mineralization. Stabilization of OC increased in direct proportion to am-Al(OH)3 availability, despite constant aromatic C (not, vert, similar30%). The strong stabilization at higher mineral availability is primarily governed by strong Al–OM bonds formed under less competitive conditions. Due to these strong bonds and the resulting strong stabilization, the surface loading, a proxy for the mineral’s occupation by OM, was not a factor in the mineralization of sorbed OM over a wide range of C sorption (0.2–1.1 mg C m−2). This study demonstrates that sorption to am-Al(OH)3 results in stabilization of OM. The mineral availability as well as the inorganic solution chemistry control sorptive interactions, thereby the properties of sorbed OM, and the stability of OM against microbial decay.
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