AGU 2017 Poster Presentation by Christy Gibson: The Interacting controls of pyrolysis temperature and plant taxa on pyrogenic organic matter stability and decomposition in a Northern Michigan forest soil

Center for the Environment
December 14, 2017
8:00 AM - 12:20 PM
New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center - Poster Hall D-F


Pyrogenic organic matter (PyOM) produced during forest fires is considered a large sink of stable soil organic matter (SOM) in boreal-temperate forest ecotones, where fire frequency and intensity is growing with changing climate. Understanding how changes in fire regime and predicted shifts in plant taxa will interact to affect PyOM dynamics in soil is imperative to assessing the impact of climate change on SOM maintenance. The stability of PyOM in soil may be co-determined by the physiochemical structure imparted on PyOM during pyrolysis and by its initial taxa-dependent wood chemistry and anatomy. To determine PyOM-C turnover rates in soil, we followed the fate of 13C-enriched wood or PyOM (200, 300, 450, or 600°C) derived from red maple (RM) or jack pine (JP) wood in soil from a recently burned forest in northern Michigan, USA. We found that pyrolysis temperature-controlled physiochemical changes influenced, with threshold dynamics, PyOM stability resulting in mean residence times of ~2 (PyOM 200°C) to 450 years for both taxa, confirming that most PyOM (<600°C) turns over on the century, not millennial time scale. Water leachable C, carbohydrate and non-lignin phenol content correlated positively with early PyOM-C mineralization for both JP and RM, but the pyrolysis temperature at which this interaction was strongest differed with taxa reflecting the difference in thermal transition in which carbonization begins (300°C for JP and 450°C for RM). In contrast to previous studies, the addition of sucrose suggests that a co-metabolism mechanism of PyOM decomposition is minor in this soil. Our results show that while the first order control on PyOM stability in this soil is pyrolysis temperature, wood taxa did affect PyOM C MRT, in part due to differences in the amount of water soluble C released by PyOM during the initial decomposition dynamics in soil.

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