Use of 13C to monitor soil organic matter transformations caused by a simulated forest fire.

Research paper by Irene I Fernandez, Ana A Cabaneiro, Serafín J SJ González-Prieto

Indexed on: 18 Feb '04Published on: 18 Feb '04Published in: Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry


Soil organic matter (SOM) transformations caused by heating were analyzed using the stable carbon isotope (13)C as a tracer to follow C mineralization dynamics and C transfers between different organic compartments. A (13)C-labelled soil, obtained by incorporation of (13)C-enriched Lolium perenne phytomass into a pine forest soil, was heated for 10 min at 385 degrees C to reproduce conditions typical of a forest fire and changes in total C content, potential C mineralization activity and C distribution between the different soil organic fractions were determined. Changes caused by heating on the potential soil C mineralization, determined by laboratory aerobic incubation, reveal alterations to the SOM biodegradability; some stabilized SOM showed an increase in biodegradability, whereas less stabilized SOM became more resistant to microorganisms. Chemical fractionations of SOM allowed us to monitor changes in its composition. As a consequence of heating, the less polymerized humic fractions were the most strongly affected, with the total disappearance of fulvic acids. A significant increase in the quantity and degree of polymerization of the humic acids at the expense of other more (13)C-enriched substances was also found. Finally, a large decrease in humin was observed, its solubilizable part disappearing completely, probably as a consequence of the incorporation of the byproducts into the free organic matter fraction.