Rock-Eval pyrolysis discriminates soil macro-aggregates formed by plants and earthworms
Verrecchia, Eric P
Le Bayon, Renée Claire
Soil Biology & Biochemistry, Elsevier, 2018/117//117-124
Plants and earthworms, as soil ecosystem engineers, play a crucial role during stabilisation of organic matter in soil through its incorporation into soil aggregates. It is therefore essential to better understand the mechanisms and interactions of soil engineering organisms regarding soil organic matter stabilisation. Several methods have already been successfully applied to differentiate soil aggregates by their origin, but they cannot specify the degree of organic matter stability within soil aggregates. Rock-Eval pyrolysis has already been proved to be pertinent for analyses of soil organic matter bulk chemistry and thermal stability, but it has not yet been directly applied to identify biogenic organic matter signatures within soil aggregates. In this study, Rock-Eval pyrolysis was used for the identification of the soil aggregate origin as well as for the determination of the soil organic matter bulk chemistry and thermal stability in a controlled experiment. Mesocosms were set up, containing treatments with a plant, an earthworm species, or both. Water stable soil macro-aggregates > 250 μm were sampled and tested with Rock-Eval pyrolysis after a two-month incubation period. Rock-Eval pyrolysis was able to differentiate soil macro-aggregates by their origin, and to identify a specific signature for each treatment. Macro-aggregates from the plant and earthworm treatment were characterized by a mixed signature incoming from the two soil engineers, indicating that both engineers contribute concomitantly to soil aggregate formation. Organic matter thermal stability was not positively affected by earthworms and even tends to decrease for the plant treatment, emphasising that organic matter was mainly physically protected during the incubation period, but not stabilised. However, future research is required to test if signatures for the tested organisms are species-specific or generally assignable to other plant and earthworm species.
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