Long-term agricultural management and erosion change soil organic matter chemistry and association with minerals

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The interaction of soil organic matter (SOM) and minerals is a critical mechanism for retaining SOM in soil and protecting soil fertility and long-term agricultural sustainability. The chemical speciation of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) in mineral-associated SOM can be sensitive to both anthropogenic management practices and landscape positions, but these two aspects are rarely examined in tandem. Here we examined the effects of long-term (>100 years) agricultural management and erosion on mineral-associated SOM along grassland and agricultural hillslope transect. The mineral-associated SOM was obtained using particle size and density fractionation approaches. Chemical speciation of C and N in mineral-associated SOM was characterized using micro X-ray absorption near-edge fine structure (XANES) spectroscopy. The extent of SOM coverage and contribution of iron oxyhydroxides (Fe oxides) to the total specific mineral surface area (SSA) were determined using the BET–N2 adsorption method of soil samples under three conditions: untreated, SOM removal, and Fe oxides removal. The amount of SSA covered by SOM (SSASOM-covered) was lower by 61% and 37% in cultivated eroding and depositional topsoils, respectively, compared with the corresponding grassland. Depositional soils had higher SSASOM-covered than eroding positions. In the cultivated hillslopes, aromatic and phenolic C species were more abundant in depositional soils than in the eroding topsoils, indicating that deposition and burial of eroded or in-situ plant-derived phenolic C protected them from further transformation. Our results, therefore, highlight the importance of anthropogenic activities in the interaction of SOM and minerals, including C speciation changes, which may exert a considerable influence on SOM retention in soils.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1500-1510
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jan 15 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Carbon and nitrogen spectroscopy reported in this paper was performed at the Canadian Light Source (CLS), which is supported by the Canada Foundation for Innovation , Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada , the University of Saskatchewan , the Government of Saskatchewan, Western Economic Diversification Canada , the National Research Council Canada , and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research . We also thank J. Dynes, T. Regier, and Z. Arthur for their assistance at the CLS's SGM beamline. This work was funded by a National Science Foundation grant to Yoo ( EAR1253198 ) and in part by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to N.A. Jelinski. The authors wish to acknowledge and express sincere gratitude to a large body of visionary work conducted at the study site regarding the landscape-scale quantification of erosion rates and the effects of land use and erosion on crop yields and soil properties by S.K. Papiernik, D.A. Lobb, T.E. Schumacher, M.J. Lindstrom, A. Farenhorst, S. DeAlba, D.D. Malo, K.D. Stephens, J.A. Schumacher, M.L. Lieser, A. Eynard, and S. Li.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.


  • Cultivation
  • Erosion
  • Mineral-associated soil organic matter
  • Specific mineral surface area


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