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The Case for Digging Deeper: Soil Organic Carbon Storage, Dynamics, and Controls in Our Changing World

1
Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, 442 Earth Sciences Building, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E3, Canada
2
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, 318 Bloedel Hall, Box 352100, Seattle, WA 98195-2100, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
This paper is included as a chapter of the Master Degree Thesis of the first author entitled Soil Carbon and Nitrogen Stocks: Underestimation with Common Sampling Methods, and Effects of Thinning and Fertilization Treatments in a Coastal Pacific Northwest Forest published by the University of Washington in 2017.
Soil Syst. 2019, 3(2), 28; https://doi.org/10.3390/soilsystems3020028
Received: 30 December 2018 / Revised: 4 April 2019 / Accepted: 4 April 2019 / Published: 9 April 2019
Most of our terrestrial carbon (C) storage occurs in soils as organic C derived from living organisms. Therefore, the fate of soil organic C (SOC) in response to changes in climate, land use, and management is of great concern. Here we provide a unified conceptual model for SOC cycling by gathering the available information on SOC sources, dissolved organic C (DOC) dynamics, and soil biogeochemical processes. The evidence suggests that belowground C inputs (from roots and microorganisms) are the dominant source of both SOC and DOC in most ecosystems. Considering our emerging understanding of SOC protection mechanisms and long-term storage, we highlight the present need to sample (often ignored) deeper soil layers. Contrary to long-held biases, deep SOC—which contains most of the global amount and is often hundreds to thousands of years old—is susceptible to decomposition on decadal timescales when the environmental conditions under which it accumulated change. Finally, we discuss the vulnerability of SOC in different soil types and ecosystems globally, as well as identify the need for methodological standardization of SOC quality and quantity analyses. Further study of SOC protection mechanisms and the deep soil biogeochemical environment will provide valuable information about controls on SOC cycling, which in turn may help prioritize C sequestration initiatives and provide key insights into climate-carbon feedbacks. View Full-Text
Keywords: soil organic carbon; deep SOC protection; microbial processing; biogeochemical processes; dissolved OC; C sources; C sequestration; climate change; land use; management soil organic carbon; deep SOC protection; microbial processing; biogeochemical processes; dissolved OC; C sources; C sequestration; climate change; land use; management
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MDPI and ACS Style

Gross, C.D.; Harrison, R.B. The Case for Digging Deeper: Soil Organic Carbon Storage, Dynamics, and Controls in Our Changing World. Soil Syst. 2019, 3, 28. https://doi.org/10.3390/soilsystems3020028

AMA Style

Gross CD, Harrison RB. The Case for Digging Deeper: Soil Organic Carbon Storage, Dynamics, and Controls in Our Changing World. Soil Systems. 2019; 3(2):28. https://doi.org/10.3390/soilsystems3020028

Chicago/Turabian Style

Gross, Cole D., and Robert B. Harrison 2019. "The Case for Digging Deeper: Soil Organic Carbon Storage, Dynamics, and Controls in Our Changing World" Soil Systems 3, no. 2: 28. https://doi.org/10.3390/soilsystems3020028

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