We examine soil organic matter (SOM) turnover and transport using C and N isotopes in soil profiles sampled circa 1949, 1978, and 1998 (a period spanning pulse thermonuclear 14C enrichment of the atmosphere) along a 3-million-year annual grassland soil chronosequence. Temporal differences in soil ??14C profiles indicate that inputs of recently living organic matter (OM) occur primarily in the upper 20-30 cm but suggest that OM inputs can occur below the primary rooting zone. A three-pool SOM model with downward transport captures most observed variation in ??14C, percentages of C and N, ??13C, and ??15N, supporting the commonly accepted concept of three distinct SOM pools. The model suggests that the importance of the decadal SOM pool in N dynamics is greatest in young and old soils. Altered hydrology and possibly low pH and/or P dynamics in highly developed old soils cause changes in soil C and N turnover and transport of importance for soil biogeochemistry models.
Additional publication details
A multiisotope C and N modeling analysis of soil organic matter turnover and transport as a function of soil depth in a California annual grassland soil chronosequence