EWN Publications

Quantifying mineral-associated organic matter in wetlands as an indicator of the degree of soil carbon protection

Anthony J. Mirabito, and Lisa G. Chambers
January 13, 2023

About This Publication

As atmospheric carbon (C) concentrations increase, so too has interest in understanding the mechanisms that preserve C within the soil organic matter (SOM). Mineral-associated organic matter (MAOM) is one pool of SOM recently shown to protect soil organic C from mineralization. However, most MAOM research has been in agriculture and forest mineral soils. Given the magnitude of soil C stored in wetlands, this study sought to determine the abundance of MAOM in wetlands. A standard method for quantifying MAOM in terrestrial soils was tested, modified, and optimized with three unique wetland soils. Using a physical fractionation method followed by a density fractionation, it was concluded that field moist soils and a dispersant were necessary for fractionating wetland soils (0–50 cm). The Bayhead Swamp soil had the greatest total C (484.07 ± 1.25 mg C g soil -1), but the smallest MAOM pool (0.63 %); most of the C was in the light fraction as particulate organic matter (POM, >98 %). The sandy-peat Cypress Dome soil also lacked MAOM (1.09 %) and was dominated by POM (66.26 %). The silt-rich Brackish Marsh had the least total C (94.37 ± 1.67 mg C g soil -1), but the largest fraction of protected C (24.60 % MAOM). Nitrogen (N) followed similar trends to C, except in the Brackish Marsh where nearly half the total N was MAOM. This research represents the first step in evaluating the role of MAOM in C persistence in organic-rich wetland soils; future work should consider C physical fraction, in addition to C quantity.

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Blue carbon is carbon captured in the world’s ocean and coastal systems. Carbon cycling from the ocean or earth and into the atmosphere provides the foundation for all ecological functions in both natural and engineer...