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Keywords:

  • OM;
  • organic matter stabilization;
  • microhabitat;
  • fractionation;
  • specific surface area;
  • NMR;
  • SEM;
  • 14C age

Abstract

We summarize progress with respect to (1) different approaches to isolate, extract, and quantify organo-mineral compounds from soils, (2) types of mineral surfaces and associated interactions, (3) the distribution and function of soil biota at organo-mineral surfaces, (4) the distribution and content of organo-mineral associations, and (5) the factors controlling the turnover of organic matter (OM) in organo-mineral associations from temperate soils. Physical fractionation achieves a rough separation between plant residues and mineral-associated OM, which makes density or particle-size fractionation a useful pretreatment for further differentiation of functional fractions. A part of the OM in organo-mineral associations resists different chemical treatments, but the data obtained cannot readily be compared among each other, and more research is necessary on the processes underlying resistance to treatments for certain OM components. Studies using physical-fractionation procedures followed by soil-microbiological analyses revealed that organo-mineral associations spatially isolate C sources from soil biota, making quantity and quality of OM in microhabitats an important factor controlling community composition. The distribution and activity of soil microorganisms at organo-mineral surfaces can additionally be modified by faunal activities. Composition of OM in organo-mineral associations is highly variable, with loamy soils having generally a higher contribution of polysaccharides, whereas mineral-associated OM in sandy soils is often more aliphatic. Though highly reactive towards Fe oxide surfaces, lignin and phenolic components are usually depleted in organo-mineral associations. Charred OM associated with the mineral surface contributes to a higher aromaticity in heavy fractions. The relative proportion of OC bound in organo-mineral fractions increases with soil depth. Likewise does the strength of the bonding. Organic molecules sorbed to the mineral surfaces or precipitated by Al are effectively stabilized, indicated by reduced susceptibility towards oxidative attack, higher thermal stability, and lower bioavailability. At higher surface loading, organic C is much better bioavailable, also indicated by little 14C age. In the subsurface horizons of the soils investigated in this study, Fe oxides seem to be the most important sorbents, whereas phyllosilicate surfaces may be comparatively more important in topsoils. Specific surface area of soil minerals is not always a good predictor for C-stabilization potentials because surface coverage is discontinuous. Recalcitrance and accessibility/aggregation seem to determine the turnover dynamics in fast and intermediate cycling OM pools, but for long-term OC preservation the interactions with mineral surfaces, and especially with Fe oxide surfaces, are a major control in all soils investigated here.