Climate-driven thresholds in reactive mineral retention of soil carbon at the global scale

Abstract

Soil organic matter can release carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as the climate warms. Organic matter sorbed to reactive (iron- and aluminium-bearing) soil minerals is an important mechanism for long-term carbon storage. However, the global distribution of mineral-stored carbon across climate zones and consequently its overall contribution to the global soil carbon pool is poorly known. We measured carbon held by reactive minerals across a broad range of climates. Carbon retained by reactive minerals was found to contribute between 3 and 72% of organic carbon found in mineral soil, depending on mean annual precipitation and potential evapotranspiration. Globally, we estimate ~600 Gt of soil carbon is retained by reactive minerals, with most occurring in wet forested biomes. For many biomes, the fraction of organic carbon retained by reactive minerals is responsive to slight shifts in effective moisture, suggesting high sensitivity to future changes in climate.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Effective moisture (mean annual precipitation after correcting for PET) and soil pit locations for NEON sites and a global archived data set over North and Central America.
Fig. 2: Percentage of organic carbon released as DOC after reactive mineral dissolution with pyrophosphate dithionite as a function of MAP adjusted for PET.
Fig. 3: Relationship between total organic C content and MAP adjusted for PET.
Fig. 4: Global carbon stock of C retained by reactive minerals.
Fig. 5: Total and reactive mineral soil C stock by biome.
Fig. 6

Data availability

Open raster, vector and tabular data are posted on the Harvard Dataverse under a CC0 Public Domain Dedication licence that allows full and unrestricted global use of the data generated during this research while giving proper citation to the original author. These posted data allow for full replication, at the minimum mapping unit, of the results generated during this analysis. The data that support the findings of this study are available at https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/NGFY6A36. Correspondence and requests for materials should be made to M.G.K.

References

  1. 1.

    Gu, B., Schmitt, J., Chen, Z., Liang, L. & McCarthy, J. F. Adsorption and desorption of natural organic matter on iron oide: mechanisms and models. Environ. Sci. Technol. 28, 38–46 (1994).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Kramer, M. G., Sanderman, J., Chadwick, O. A., Chorover, J. & Vitousek, P. M. Long-term carbon storage through retention of dissolved aromatic acids by reactive particles in soil. Glob. Change Biol. 18, 2594–2605 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Kaiser, K., Guggenberger, G. & Zech, W. Sorption of DOM and DOM fractions to forest soils. Geoderma 74, 281–303 (1996).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Kaiser, K. & Guggenberger, G. The role of DOM sorption to mineral surfaces in the preservation of organic matter in soils. Org. Geochem. 31, 711–725 (2000).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Guggenberger, G. & Kaiser, K. Dissolved organic matter in soil: challenging the paradigm of sorptive preservation. Geoderma 113, 293–310 (2003).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Jardine, P., McCarthy, J. & Weber, N. Mechanisms of dissolved organic carbon adsorption on soil. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 53, 1378–1385 (1989).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Kalbitz, K. & Kaiser, K. Contribution of dissolved organic matter to carbon storage in forest mineral soils. J. Plant Nutr. Soil Sci. 171, 52–60 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Kalbitz, K., Schwesig, D., Rethemeyer, J. & Matzner, E. Stabilization of dissolved organic matter by sorption to the mineral soil. Soil Biol. Biochem. 37, 1319–1331 (2005).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Kalbitz, K., Solinger, S., Park, J.-H., Michalzik, B. & Matzner, E. Controls on the dynamics of dissolved organic matter in soils: a review. Soil Sci. 165, 277–304 (2000).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Jenny, H. Factors of Soil Formation: A System of Quantitative Pedology (Courier Corporation, New York, 1994).

  11. 11.

    Chadwick, O. A. & Chorover, J. The chemistry of pedogenic thresholds. Geoderma 100, 321–353 (2001).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Dixon, J. L., Chadwick, O. A. & Vitousek, P. M. Climate‐driven thresholds for chemical weathering in postglacial soils of New Zealand. J. Geophys. Res. Earth Surf. 121, 1619–1634 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Vitousek, P., Dixon, J. L. & Chadwick, O. A. Parent material and pedogenic thresholds: observations and a simple model. Biogeochemistry 130, 147–157 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Dahlgren, R., Boettinger, J., Huntington, G. & Amundson, R. Soil development along an elevational transect in the western Sierra Nevada, California. Geoderma 78, 207–236 (1997).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Peay, K. G. et al. Convergence and contrast in the community structure of Bacteria, Fungi and Archaea along a tropical elevation-climate gradient. FEMS Microbiol. Ecol. 93, 5 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Von Sperber, C., Stallforth, R., Du Preez, C. & Amelung, W. Changes in soil phosphorus pools during prolonged arable cropping in semiarid grasslands. Eur. J. Soil Sci. 68, 462–471 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Kramer, M. G. & Chadwick, O. A. Controls on carbon storage and weathering in volcanic soils across a high‐elevation climate gradient on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Ecology 97, 2384–2395 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Slessarev, E. et al. Water balance creates a threshold in soil pH at the global scale. Nature 540, 567–569 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Rasmussen, C. et al. Beyond clay: towards an improved set of variables for predicting soil organic matter content. Biogeochemistry 137, 297–306 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Muhs, D. R. Intrinsic thresholds in soil systems. Phys. Geogr. 5, 99–110 (1984).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Sowers, T., Adhikari, D., Wang, J., Yang, Y. & Sparks, D. L. Spatial associations and chemical composition of organic carbon sequestered in Fe, Ca, and organic carbon ternary systems. Environ. Sci. Technol. 52, 6936–6944 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Sowers, T. D., Stuckey, J. W. & Sparks, D. L. The synergistic effect of calcium on organic carbon sequestration to ferrihydrite. Geochem. Trans. 19, 4 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Rowley, M. C., Grand, S. & Verrecchia, É. P. Calcium-mediated stabilisation of soil organic carbon. Biogeochemistry 137, 27–49 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Zomer, R. J. et al. Trees and Water: Smallholder Agroforestry on Irrigated Lands in Northern India Research Report No. 122 (IWMI, 2007).

  25. 25.

    Zomer, R. J., Trabucco, A., Bossio, D. A. & Verchot, L. V. Climate change mitigation: a spatial analysis of global land suitability for clean development mechanism afforestation and reforestation. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 126, 67–80 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Hengl, T. et al. SoilGrids250m: global gridded soil information based on machine learning. PLoS ONE 12, e0169748 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Batjes, N. Overview of Procedures and Standards in Use at ISRIC WDC—Soils Report No. 2016/02 (ISRIC, 2016).

  28. 28.

    Jackson, R. B. et al. The ecology of soil carbon: pools, vulnerabilities, and biotic and abiotic controls. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Evol. System. 48, 419–445 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Holdridge, L. R. Determination of world plant formations from simple climatic data. Science 105, 367–368 (1947).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Holdridge, L. R. Life Zone Ecology (Tropcial Science Center, San Jose, 1967).

  31. 31.

    Post, W. M., Emanuel, W. R., Zinke, P. J. & Stangenberger, A. G. Soil carbon pools and world life zones. Nature 298, 156–159 (1982).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    IPCC Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds. Stocker, T. F. et al.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

  33. 33.

    Kögel‐Knabner, I. et al. Organo‐mineral associations in temperate soils: integrating biology, mineralogy, and organic matter chemistry. J. Plant Nutr. Soil Sci. 171, 61–82 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Trumbore, S. E., Chadwick, O. A. & Amundson, R. Rapid exchange between soil carbon and atmospheric carbon dioxide driven by temperature change. Science 272, 393–396 (1996).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Buettner, S. W., Kramer, M. G., Chadwick, O. A. & Thompson, A. Mobilization of colloidal carbon during iron reduction in basaltic soils. Geoderma 221, 139–145 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Harvard Dataverse (Harvard Univ., 2018); https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/NGFY6A

  37. 37.

    McKeague, J. An evaluation of 0.1 M pyrophosphate and pyrophosphate-dithionite in comparison with oxalate as extractants of the accumulation products in podzols and some other soils. Can. J. Soil Sci. 47, 95–99 (1967).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Mehra, O. & Jackson, M. Iron oxide removal from soils and clays by a dithionite-citrate system buffered with sodium bicarbonate. Clays Clay Miner. 7, 317–327 (1958).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Franzmeier, D., Hajek, B. & Simonson, C. Use of amorphous material to identify spodic horizons. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 29, 737–743 (1965).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Lalonde, K., Mucci, A., Ouellet, A. & Gélinas, Y. Preservation of organic matter in sediments promoted by iron. Nature 483, 198–200 (2012).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Walter, I. A. et al. ASCE’s standardized reference evapotranspiration equation. In Proc. Watershed Management and Operations Management 2000 (eds Flug, M., Frevert, D. & Watkins, D. W. Jr) 1–11 (American Society of Civil Engineering, 2000).

  42. 42.

    Aschonitis, V., Demertzi, K., Papamichail, D., Colombani, N. & Mastrocicco, M. Revisiting the Priestley–Taylor method for the assessment of reference crop evapotranspiration in Italy. J. Agrometeorol. 20, 5–18 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Aschonitis, V. G. et al. High-resolution global grids of revised Priestley–Taylor and Hargreaves–Samani coefficients for assessing ASCE-standardized reference crop evapotranspiration and solar radiation. Earth Syst. Sci. Data. 9, 615–638 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Itenfisu, D., Elliott, R. L., Allen, R. G. & Walter, I. A. Comparison of reference evapotranspiration calculations as part of the ASCE standardization effort. J. Irrig. Drain. Eng. 129, 440–448 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Zhang, K. et al. Vegetation greening and climate change promote multidecadal rises of global land evapotranspiration. Sci. Rep. 5, 15956 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors thank R. Johnson, D. Andreasen and G. Kahl for assistance with soil analyses. Soil sample preparation and analyses were conducted at the Stable Isotope and Organic Geochemistry Laboratory at Washington State University, Vancouver. This work was, in part, financially supported by National Research Initiative grant no. 2007–35107–18429 and from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant no. 2017–05483. Soil samples were provided by NEON, which is a programme sponsored by the National Science Foundation and operated under a cooperative agreement with Battelle Memorial Institute.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

M.G.K. conceived of the study, designed and executed soil sample analyses, as well as global soil C and climate data set analyses. M.G.K. wrote the manuscript, to which both authors contributed substantial interpretation, discussion and text.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Marc G. Kramer.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary figures 1–3

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kramer, M.G., Chadwick, O.A. Climate-driven thresholds in reactive mineral retention of soil carbon at the global scale. Nature Clim Change 8, 1104–1108 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0341-4

Download citation

Further reading

Search

Quick links

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter for a daily update on COVID-19 science.
Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing