Culman, S. W., S. S. Snapp, M. E. Schipanski, M. A. Freeman, L. E. Beniston, L. E. Drinkwater, A. J. Franzluebbers, J. D. Glover, A. S. Grandy, R. Lal, J. Lee, J. E. Maul, S. B. Mirsky, J. Six, J. T. Spargo, and M. M. Wander. 2012. Permanganate oxidizable carbon reflects a processed soil fraction that is sensitive to management. Soil Science Society of America Journal 76:494-505.
Permanganate oxidizable C (POXC; i.e., active C) is a relatively new method that can quantify labile soil C rapidly and inexpensively. Despite limited reports of positive correlations with particulate organic C (POC), microbial biomass C (MBC), and other soil C fractions, little is known about what soil fractions POXC most closely reflects. We measured POXC across a wide range of soil types, ecosystems, and geographic areas (12 studies, 53 total sites, n = 1379) to: (i) determine the relationship between POXC and POC, MBC and soil organic C (SOC) fractions, and (ii) determine the relative sensitivity of POXC as a labile soil C metric across a range of environmental and management conditions. Permanganate oxidizable C was significantly related to POC, MBC, and SOC, and these relationships were strongest when data were analyzed by individual studies. Permanganate oxidizable C was more closely related to smaller-sized (53–250 μm) than larger POC fractions (250–2000 μm), and more closely related to heavier (>1.7 g cm−3) than lighter POC fractions, indicating that it reflects a relatively processed pool of labile soil C. Compared with POC, MBC, or SOC, POXC demonstrated greater sensitivity to changes in management or environmental variation in 42% of the significant experimental factors examined across the 12 studies. Our analysis demonstrates the usefulness of POXC in quickly and inexpensively assessing changes in the labile soil C pool.
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