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Ecological stoichiometry controls the transformation and retention of plant-derived organic matter to humus in response to nitrogen fertilisation

Finn, Damien and Page, Kathryn and Catton, Kerrilyn and Kienzle, Marco and Robertson, Fiona and Armstrong, Roger and Dalal, Ram (2016) Ecological stoichiometry controls the transformation and retention of plant-derived organic matter to humus in response to nitrogen fertilisation. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 99 . pp. 117-127. ISSN 00380717

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Article Link(s): http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.soilbio.2016.05.006

Abstract

Carbon (C) sequestration in soils is a means for increasing soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks and is a potential tool for climate change mitigation. One recommended management practice to increase SOC stocks is nitrogen (N) fertilisation, however examples of positive, negative or null SOC effects in response to N addition exist. We evaluated the relative importance of plant molecular structure, soil physical properties and soil ecological stoichiometry in explaining the retention of SOC with and without N addition. We tracked the transformation of 13C pulse-labelled buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris L.), wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and lucerne (Medicago sativa L.) material to the <53 μm silt + clay soil organic C fraction, hereafter named “humus”, over 365-days of incubation in four contrasting agricultural soils, with and without urea-N addition. We hypothesised that: a) humus retention would be soil and litter dependent; b) humus retention would be litter independent once litter C:N ratios were standardised with urea-N addition; and c) humus retention would be improved by urea-N addition. Two and three-way factorial analysis of variance indicated that 13C humus was consistently soil and litter dependent, even when litter C:N ratios were standardised, and that the effect of urea-N addition on 13C humus was also soil and litter dependent. A boosted regression analysis of the effect of 44 plant and soil explanatory variables demonstrated that soil biological and chemical properties had the greatest relative influence on 13C humus. Regression tree analyses demonstrated that the greatest gains in 13C humus occurred in soils of relatively low total organic C, dissolved organic C and microbial biomass C (MBC), or with a combination of relatively high MBC and low C:N ratio. The greatest losses in 13C humus occurred in soils with a combination of relatively high MBC and low total N or increasing C:N ratio. We conclude that soil variables involved in soil ecological stoichiometry exert a greater relative influence on incorporating organic matter as humus compared to plant molecular structure and soil physical properties. Furthermore, we conclude that the effect of N fertilisation on humus retention is dependent upon soil ecological stoichiometry.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Animal Science
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Soils. Soil science
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Soils. Soil science > Soil chemistry
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Soils. Soil science > Soil and crops. Soil-plant relationships. Soil productivity
Deposited On:23 May 2016 03:20
Last Modified:23 May 2016 03:20

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