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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 71 No. 1, p. 64-74
    Received: Mar 10, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): thorsten.scheel@uni-bayreuth.de
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Precipitation of Dissolved Organic Matter by Aluminum Stabilizes Carbon in Acidic Forest Soils

  1. T. Scheel *,
  2. C. Dörfler and
  3. K. Kalbitz
  1. Dep. of Soil Ecology, Bayreuth Center of Ecology and Environ., Research (BayCEER), Univ. of Bayreuth, D-95440 Bayreuth, Germany


Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is often neglected as a factor in the formation of stable soil organic matter (OM). Precipitation of DOM by dissolved Al could contribute substantially to C retention in acidic forest soils; however, no information is available on the stability of precipitated OM against microbial decay. We investigated the stability of Al–OM precipitates against microbial decay as related to (i) DOM composition, (ii) Al speciation, and (iii) the dissolved Al/C ratio. We produced Al–OM precipitates by adding AlCl3 (molar Al/C ratios: 0.05–0.3) at pH values of 3.8 and 4.5 to DOM solutions derived from Oi and Oa horizons, from either beech (Fagus sylvatica L) or spruce [Picea abies (L.) Karst.] litter. Between 13 and 84% of the C was precipitated, depending on pH, Al/C ratio, and the type of DOM. Precipitates were found to be enriched in aromatic C and mostly depleted in N when compared with DOM. Only 0.5 to 7.7% of precipitated C was mineralized during 7 wk of incubation. Mineralization of Al–OM precipitates was up to 28 times less than that of the respective DOM solutions. The extent of mineralization of Al–OM precipitates formed at pH 3.8 was reduced by 50 to 75% when compared with those formed at pH 4.5. The stability of precipitates against microbial decay increased with larger aromatic C content and larger C/N ratios. Our study clearly demonstrated that a large fraction of DOM can be precipitated and is thereby substantially stabilized against microbial decay.

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