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Turnover of the Soil Organic Matter Amino Acid Fraction Investigated by 13C and 14C Signatures of Carboxyl Carbon

  • Christine Hatté (a1), Claude Noury (a1), Louay Kheirbeik (a2) and Jérôme Balesdent (a2)

Nitrogenous compounds of soil organic matter constitute a major N reservoir on Earth. Both the world food protein supply produced by agriculture and the global contamination by reactive nitrogen species rely on the dynamics of these compounds. To investigate their dynamics, we used both natural 13C labeling and accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C dating of the α-carboxyl amino carbon, which is specific of the amino acid fraction that was extracted from bulk soil organic matter by ninhydrin hydrolysis. We applied this isotopic approach to investigate the age of carboxyl carbon in a maize-cultivated Cambisol chronosequence. Based on a few measurements, we demonstrate the feasibility of this new compound-specific method of investigation of soil carbon dynamics. We show that soil organic matter amino acids can be split into two very distinct dynamic compartments: the majority having a mean age of a few years and a minority having a mean carbon age of several millennia. The latter fraction can be either strongly stabilized in soils, or can arise from microbial utilization of old carbon resources, as predicted by the priming effect theory.

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Selected Papers from the 2015 Radiocarbon Conference, Dakar, Senegal, 16–20 November 2015

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