Production of dissolved organic carbon and low-molecular weight organic acids in soil solution driven by recent tree photosynthate

Biogeochemistry (Impact Factor: 3.73). 04/2007; 84(1):1-12. DOI: 10.1007/s10533-007-9069-3

ABSTRACT Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) is an important component in the terrestrial carbon cycle. Yet, the relative importance of
different inputs of DOC to the soil solution remains uncertain. Here, we used a large-scale forest girdling experiment to
examine how the supply of recent photosynthate to tree roots and their mycorrhizal fungi affects DOC, in particular low-molecular
weight organic acids (LMWOA). We also studied effects of tree girdling on non-structural carbohydrates in microorganism, and
examined the effects of freezing of soil and the presence of roots in the soil samples on soil solution DOC and LMWOA in this

The concentration of DOC was reduced by 40%, while citrate was reduced by up to 90% in the soil solution by the girdling treatment.
Other LMWOA such as oxalate, succinate, formate and propionate were unaffected by the girdling. We also found that girdling
reduced the concentrations of trehalose (by 50%), a typical fungal sugar, and of monosaccharides (by 40%) in microorganisms
in root-free soil. The effect of freezing on DOC concentrations was marked in samples from control plots, but insignificant
in samples from girdled plots. Release of DOC from cell lysis after freezing was attributed equally to roots and to microorganisms.

Our observations suggest a direct link from tree photosynthesis through roots and their mycorrhizal fungi to soil solution
chemistry. This direct link should impact solute transport and speciation, mineral weathering and C dynamics in the soil compartment.
Importantly, our finding of a substantial photosynthate driven production of DOC challenges the paradigm that DOC is mainly
the result of decomposition of organic matter.

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