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Canadian journal of Soil Sciences
Year: 2010  |  Volume: 90  |  Issue: 1  |  Page No.: 15 - 26

Pedogenic, mineralogical and land-use controls on organic carbon stabilization in two contrasting soils

A.F. Plante, I. Virto and S.S. Malhi    

Abstract: Organo-mineral complexation in soils is strongly controlled by pedogenesis, but the mechanisms controlling it and its interaction with cultivation are not yet well understood. We compared the mineralogy and quality of organic carbon (C) among organo-mineral fractions from two soils with contrasting pedogenic origin. Sequential density fractionation (SDF; using 1.6, 1.8, 2.1, 2.4 and 2.6 g mL-1 sodium polytungstate solutions) followed by thermal analysis was applied to a Chernozem from Ellerslie, Alberta, and a Luvisol from Breton, Alberta, each under native and cultivated land uses. Similar clay mineralogy suggested that pedogenic controls on organic C stabilization were related to long-term vegetation cover. In addition to large differences in total organic C quantities, bulk soil and isolated fractions showed significant differences in organic C quality. Samples under native vegetation revealed greater organo-mineral complexation at Ellerslie compared with Breton, as expressed by less solubilisation, more organic C recovered in intermediate-density fractions, and exothermic differential scanning calorimetry peak signals associated with more stable forms of organic C. Long-term cultivation resulted in an overall shift to more stable organo-mineral complexes. The proportion of soil C in the 2.1-2.4 g mL-1 fraction increased under cultivation from 21 to 32% in Breton samples, and from 6 to 16% in Ellerslie samples. The quality of inherited pedogenic soil organic C stored in a soil thus appears to determine its response to long-term cultivation.

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