BER launches Environmental System Science Program. Visit our new website under construction!

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Synthetic Iron (Hydr)oxide-Glucose Associations in Subsurface Soil: Effects on Decomposability of Mineral-Associated Carbon
Published: September 14, 2017
Posted: November 21, 2017

Soil minerals stabilize highly decomposable compounds like glucose.

The Science 
Recent field studies suggest that interactions with soil mineral phases can stabilize otherwise biodegradable organic matter (OM) in soils against microbial decomposition. To directly assess the effect of organo-mineral associations on an easily decomposable substrate (glucose), the research team conducted a series of laboratory incubations with well-characterized minerals (goethite and ferrihydrite) and native soils from three soil depths. Indeed, while free glucose added to soil was completely respired by microbes within 80 days, almost no glucose that had been sorbed to minerals before incorporation into soil was respired (~100% versus 0.4%, respectively).

The Impact
(1) This study provides direct evidence that even the most chemically labile organic substrates can be protected from microbial decomposition via association with mineral phases [in this case iron (hydro)oxide]. (2) These results support the emerging view that molecular structure is not the sole determinant of soil organic carbon (SOC) stability. (3) The efficacy of the laboratory approach demonstrates that microbial respired CO2 can be used as a tracer for OM desorption in soil, creating additional research opportunities.

Summary 
Empirical field-based studies have provided indirect evidence of the capacity of soil minerals to stabilize organic carbon in soil. However, uncertainties remain as to the effect of mineral association on the bioavailability of organic compounds. To assess the impact of mineral association on the decomposition of glucose, an easily respirable organic substrate, a series of laboratory incubations was conducted with soils from 15, 50, and 85 cm. 13C-labeled glucose was added either directly to native soil or sorbed to one of two synthetic iron (Fe) (hydr)oxides (goethite and ferrihydrite) that differ in crystallinity and affinity for glucose. This study demonstrates that association with Fe (hydr)oxide minerals effectively reduced decomposition of glucose by ~99.5% relative to the rate of decomposition for free glucose in soil. These results emphasize the key role of mineral-organic associations in regulating the fluxes of carbon from soils to the atmosphere by enhancing the persistence of SOC stocks.

Contacts
BER Program Manager
Daniel B. Stover
Office of Biological and Environmental Research Climate and Environmental Sciences Division
daniel.stover@science.doe.gov (301-903-0289)

Principal Investigator
Margaret S. Torn
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory EESA/CESD
mstorn@lbl.gov (510-495-2223)

Funding
This work was supported as part of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Science program of the Office of Biological and Environmental Research, within the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231.

Publications
Porras, R.C., C.E. Hicks Pries, M.S. Torn, and P.S. Nico. “Synthetic iron (hydr)oxide-glucose associations in subsurface soil: Effects on decomposability of mineral associated carbon.” Science of The Total Environment 61314, 342–351 (2017). [DOI:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.08.290]

Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Terrestrial Ecosystem Science
  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling

Division: SC-33.1 Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, BER

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Mar 23, 2021
Molecular Connections from Plants to Fungi to Ants
Lipids transfer energy and serve as an inter-kingdom communication tool in leaf-cutter ants&rsqu [more...]

Mar 19, 2021
Microbes Use Ancient Metabolism to Cycle Phosphorus
Microbial cycling of phosphorus through reduction-oxidation reactions is older and more widespre [more...]

Feb 22, 2021
Warming Soil Means Stronger Microbe Networks
Soil warming leads to more complex, larger, and more connected networks of microbes in those soi [more...]

Jan 27, 2021
Labeling the Thale Cress Metabolites
New data pipeline identifies metabolites following heavy isotope labeling.

Analysis [more...]

Aug 31, 2020
Novel Bacterial Clade Reveals Origin of Form I Rubisco
Objectives

  • All plant biomass is sourced from the carbon-fixing enzyme Rub [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)