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Pyrolysis temperature and soil depth interactions determine PyC turnover and induced soil organic carbon priming...

by Fernanda Santos, David Rice, Jeffrey Bird, Asmeret Berhe
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47 to 65

Pyrogenic organic carbon (PyC) is a complex, heterogeneous class of thermally altered organic substrates, but its dynamics and how its behavior changes with soil depth remain poorly understood. We conducted a laboratory incubation study to investigate the interactive effects of pyrolysis temperature and soil depth on the turnover of PyC compared to its precursor wood and native SOC (NSOC). We incubated dual-labeled (13C and 15N) jack pine pyrogenic organic matter produced at 300 °C (PyC300), 450 °C (PyC450), and their precursor pine wood in a fine-loamy, mixed-conifer forest soil for 745 days. A mixture of surface (0–10 cm) and subsurface (50–70 cm) forest soils, with and without labeled biomass were incubated in the dark at 55% soil water field capacity and 25 °C. Total 13C from PyC and wood mineralized as 13C-CO2 (as % of C added to soil) declined with an increase in pyrolysis temperature as follows: 54 ± 7.7% for wood, 3.1 ± 0.2% for PyC300, and 0.94 ± 0.08% for PyC450. After 2 years, soil depth interacted with pyrolysis temperature to affect C turnover, with total wood C losses significantly declining from 70.6% in surface soils to 37.5% in subsurface soil, while total losses of PyC300 and PyC450 were unaffected by differences between surface and subsurface soils. Wood induced negative priming (i.e., decreased mineralization rates) in surface soil at days 3 and 60, while PyC300 induced positive priming (i.e., increased mineralization rates) in subsurface soil at day 60. After 2 years, unlabeled NSOC losses increased from 9.2 ± 0.8% of NSOC in unamended treatments to 16.5 ± 2.6% of NSOC with PyC450 additions. Our results suggest that PyC pyrolyzed at a given temperature can mineralize at similar rates between soil depths, and high amounts of PyC450 in subsurface soils can stimulate NSOC losses. These findings indicate that soil depth imposes critical controls on PyC dynamics belowground.