Toosi, E. R., A. N. Kravchenko, J. Mao, M. Y. Quigley, and M. L. Rivers. 2017. Effects of management and pore characteristics on organic matter composition of macroaggregates: Evidence from characterization of organic matter and imaging. European Journal of Soil Science 68:200-211.
Macroaggregates are of interest because of their fast response to land management and their role in the loss or restoration of soil organic carbon (SOC). The study included two experiments. In Experiment I, we investigated the effect of long-term (27 years) land management on the chemical composition of organic matter (OM) of macroaggregates. Macroaggregates were sampled from topsoil under conventional cropping, cover cropping and natural succession systems. The OM of macroaggregates from conventional cropping was more decomposed than that of cover cropping and especially natural succession, based on larger δ15N values and decomposition indices determined by multiple magic-angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance (13C CP/MAS NMR) and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. Previous research at the sites studied suggested that this was mainly because of reduced diversity and activity of the decomposer community, change in nutrient stoichiometry from fertilization and contrasting formation pathways of macroaggregates in conventional cropping compared with cover cropping and, specifically, natural succession. In Experiment II, we investigated the relation between OM composition and pore characteristics of macroaggregates. Macroaggregates from the natural succession system only were studied. We determined 3-D pore-size distribution of macroaggregates with X-ray microtomography, for which we cut the macroaggregates into sections that had contrasting dominant pore sizes. Then, we characterized the OM of macroaggregate sections with FTIR and δ15N methods. The results showed that within a macroaggregate, the OM was less decomposed in areas where the small (13–32 µm) or large (136–260 µm) pores were abundant. This was attributed to the role of large pores in supplying fresh OM and small pores in the effective protection of OM in macroaggregates. Previous research at the site studied had shown increased abundance of large and small intra-aggregate pores following adoption of less intensive management systems. It appears that land management can alter the OM composition of macroaggregates, partly by the regulation of OM turnover at the intra-aggregate scale. Highlights: * OM and pore characteristics were studied in soil macroaggregates under different land management. * Long-term intensive land management increased degree of OM decomposition in macroaggregates. * Abundance of < 32 and > 136 µm pores was positively related to less decomposed OM. * Land management may affect rate of SOM turnover by changing intra-aggregate pore-size distribution.
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