Lability of soil organic carbon in tropical soils with different clay minerals.

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Soil organic carbon (SOC) storage and turnover is influenced by interactions between organic matter and the mineral soil fraction. However, the influence of clay content and type on SOC turnover rates remains unclear, particularly in tropical soils under natural vegetation. We examined the lability of SOC in tropical soils with contrasting clay mineralogy (kaolinite, smectite, allophane and Al-rich chlorite). Soil was sampled from A horizons at six sites in humid tropical areas of Ghana, Malaysian Borneo and the Solomon Islands and separated into fractions above and below 250 µm by wet sieving. Basal soil respiration rates were determined from bulk soils and soil fractions. Substrate induced respiration rates were determined from soil fractions. SOC lability was significantly influenced by clay mineralogy, but not by clay content when compared across contrasting clay minerals. The lability of SOC was lowest in the allophanic and chloritic soil, higher in the kaolinitic soils and highest in the smectitic soil. Our results contrast with conventional concepts of the greater capacity of smectite than of kaolinite to stabilize SOC. Contents of dithionite–citrate–bicarbonate extractable Fe and Al were inversely related to SOC lability when compared across soil types. A stronger inverse correlation between content of ammonium–oxalate extractable Fe and SOC lability was found when considering the kaolinitic soils only and we conclude that the content of active Fe (hydr-) oxides controls SOC stabilization in the kaolinitic soils. Our results suggest that the validity of predictive models of SOC turnover in tropical soils would be improved by the inclusion of soil types and contents of Fe and Al (hydr-) oxides.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSoil Biology & Biochemistry
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)888-895
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2010

ID: 22750907