Lee, J. H., M. Lucas, A. K. Guber, X. Li, and A. N. Kravchenko. 2023. Interactions among soil texture, pore structure, and labile carbon influence soil carbon gains. Geoderma 439:116675.
Perennial vegetation with high plant diversity, e.g., restored prairie, is known for stimulation of soil carbon (C) gains, due in part to enhanced formation of pore structure beneficial for long-term C storage. However, the prevalence of this phenomenon across soils of different types remains poorly understood. The aim of the study was to assess the associations between pore structure, soil C, and their differences in monoculture switchgrass and polyculture restored prairie vegetation across a wide range of soils dominating the Upper Midwest of the USA. Six experimental sites were sampled, representing three soil types with texture ranging from sandy to silt loams. The two vegetation systems studied at each site were (i) monoculture switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), and (ii) polyculture restored prairie, also containing switchgrass as one of its species. X-ray computed micro-tomography (µCT) was employed to analyze soil pore structure. Structural equation modeling and multiple path analyses were used to assess direct and indirect effects of soil texture and pore characteristics on microbial biomass C (MBC), particulate organic matter (POM), dissolved organic C (DOC), short-term respiration (CO2), and, ultimately, soil organic C (SOC). Across studied sites, prairie increased fractions of medium (50–150 µm Ø) pores by 11–45 %, SOC by 3–69 %, and MBC by 18–59 % (except for one site). The greater were the prairie-induced increases in the medium pore volumes, the greater were the prairie-induced SOC gains. Greater C losses via CO2 and DOC contributed to slower C accumulation in the prairie soil. We surmise that the interactive feedback loop relating medium pores and soil C acts across a wide range of soil textures and is an important mechanism through which perennial vegetation with high plant diversity, such as restored prairie, promotes rapid SOC gains.
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GLBRC Marginal Land ExperimentGet PDF back to index