Evolution of the transport properties of soil aggregates and their relationship with soil organic carbon following land use changes

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Wang, F., Zhang, X., Neal, A. L., Crawford, J. W., Mooney, S. and Bacq-Lebreuil, A. 2022. Evolution of the transport properties of soil aggregates and their relationship with soil organic carbon following land use changes. Soil & Tillage Research. 215, p. 105226. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.still.2021.105226

AuthorsWang, F., Zhang, X., Neal, A. L., Crawford, J. W., Mooney, S. and Bacq-Lebreuil, A.
Abstract

Aggregates are functional units to describe the impact of soil structural changes on physical and biogeochemical
processes in soil. Both incubation and field experiments have shown that changing agricultural practices could reshape the intra-aggregate structure in a matter of days, but most such data were obtained from a single timepoint and it is hence impossible to interpret that such a change was just a temporal transition or the new equilibria towards which the aggregates had evolved following the management changes. Understanding this is indispensable as intra-aggregate structure and its ability to transport substrates modulate all biogeochemical processes involved in soil carbon and nutrient cycle. This paper investigates this using soil samples archived from a reversion experiment initiated in 2008 at Rothamsted Research (UK), where parts of a plot that had been fallow since the 1950 s were converted to wheat or grass in 2008. We used X-ray Computed Tomography images, acquired at voxel size 1.5 μm, of aggregates in the archived soils to investigate the evolution of transport property
of the aggregates over time, as well as its relationship with soil organic carbon (SOC). We also evaluated the development of pore connectedness following the conversion. The results show that the transport ability of the aggregates explains the SOC change much better than the porosity, and that noticeable changes in porosity of the connected pores and their ability to transport substrates did not emerge until the sixth year after the conversion. Ten years after the conversion, there was still no sign of the porosity of the connected pores and the bulk diffusion coefficient to plateau. In addition, we found the conversion to grass changed the intra-aggregate pore geometry significantly in that the bulk diffusion coefficients of their aggregates trends with their porosities in a way differing significantly from those for the bare fallow and arable treatments. All these suggest that the intraaggregate reconfiguration following the conversion is a slow process, and that the ability of pore space to transport substrates is more important than the habitat they provide in SOC stabilisation.

KeywordsLong-term experiment; Land use change; Intra-aggregate structure; Bulk diffusion coefficient; Soil organic carbon
Year of Publication2022
JournalSoil & Tillage Research
Journal citation215, p. 105226
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.still.2021.105226
Open accessPublished as non-open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeBBS/E/C/000J03000
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online14 Oct 2021
Publication process dates
Accepted04 Oct 2021
PublisherElsevier Science Bv
ISSN0167-1987

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