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Root-driven weathering impacts on mineral-organic associations in deep soils over pedogenic time scales

July 23, 2019

Plant roots are critical weathering agents in deep soils, yet the impact of resulting mineral transformations on the vast deep soil carbon (C) reservoir are largely unknown. Root-driven weathering of primary minerals may cause the formation of reactive secondary minerals, which protect mineral-organic associations (MOAs) for centuries or millennia. Conversely, root-driven weathering may also transform secondary minerals, potentially enhancing the bioavailability of C previously protected in MOAs. Here we examined the impact of root-driven weathering on MOAs and their capacity to store C over pedogenic time scales. To accomplish this, we examined deep horizons (100-160 cm) that experienced root-driven weathering in four soils of increasing ages (65-226 kyr) of the Santa Cruz Marine Terrace chronosequence. Specifically, we compared discrete rhizosphere zones subject to root-driven weathering, with adjacent zones that experienced no root growth. Using a combination of radiocarbon, mass spectrometry, 57Fe Mössbauer spectroscopy, high-resolution mass spectrometry, and X-ray spectromicroscopy approaches, we characterized transformations of MOAs in relation to changes in C content, Δ14C values, and chemistry across the chronosequence. We found that the onset of root-driven weathering (65-90kyr) increased the amount of C associated with poorly crystalline iron (Fe) and aluminum (Al) phases, particularly highly disordered nano-particulate goethite (np-goethite). This increase coincided with greater C concentrations, lower  Δ14C values, and greater abundance of what is likely microbially-derived C. Continued root-driven weathering (137-226kyr) did not significantly change the amount of C associated with crystalline Fe and Al phases, but resulted in a decline in the amount of C associated with poorly crystalline Fe and Al phases. This decline coincided with a decrease in C concentrations, an increase in 14C values, and a shift toward plant-derived C. In contrast, soil not affected by root-driven weathering showed comparatively low amounts of C bound to poorly crystalline Fe and Al phases regardless of soil age and, correspondingly, lower C concentrations. Our results demonstrate that root-driven formation and disruption of MOAs are direct controls on both C accrual and loss in deep soil. This finding suggests that root impacts on soil C storage are dependent on soil weathering stage, a consideration that is critical for future predictions of the vulnerability of deep soil C to global change.

Publication Year 2019
Title Root-driven weathering impacts on mineral-organic associations in deep soils over pedogenic time scales
DOI 10.1016/j.gca.2019.07.030
Authors Mariela Garcia Arredondo, Corey Lawrence, Marjorie S. Schulz, Malak M. Tfaily, Ravi K. Kukkadapu, Morris E. Jones, Kristin Boye, Marco Keiluweit
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Index ID 70205596
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center; Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center; National Research Program - Western Branch