Juyal, A., A. Guber, M. Oerther, M. Quigley, and A. Kravchenko. 2021. Pore architecture and particulate organic matter in soils under monoculture switchgrass and restored prairie in contrasting topography. Scientific Reports 11:21997.
Bioenergy cropping systems can substantially contribute to climate change mitigation. However, limited information is available on how they affect soil characteristics, including pores and particulate organic matter (POM), both essential components of the soil C cycle. The objective of this study was to determine effects of bioenergy systems and field topography on soil pore characteristics, POM, and POM decomposition under new plant growth. We collected intact soil cores from two systems: monoculture switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) and native prairie, at two contrasting topographical positions (depressions and slopes), planting half of the cores with switchgrass. Pore and POM characteristics were obtained using X-ray computed micro-tomography (μCT) (18.2 µm resolution) before and after new switchgrass growth. Diverse prairie vegetation led to higher soil C than switchgrass, with concomitantly higher volumes of 30–90 μm radius pores and greater solid-pore interface. Yet, that effect was present only in the coarse-textured soils on slopes and coincided with higher root biomass of prairie vegetation. Surprisingly, new switchgrass growth did not intensify decomposition of POM, but even somewhat decreased it in monoculture switchgrass as compared to non-planted controls. Our results suggest that topography can play a substantial role in regulating factors driving C sequestration in bioenergy systems.
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