Analyzing dissolved organic matter (DOM) of soil solution constitutes an integral activity in critical zone science as important insights to nutrient and carbon cycling and mineral weathering processes can be gained. Soil solution can be obtained by a variety of approaches such as by in situ zero-tension and tension samplers or by performing soil extracts in the lab. It is generally preferred to obtain soil solution in situ with the least amount of disturbance. However, in water limited environments, such as in southwestern US, in situ sampling is only possible during few hydrologic events and soil extracts are often employed. In order to evaluate the performance of different sampling approaches for OM analysis, results from aqueous soil extracts were compared with in situ samples obtained from suction cups and passive capillary wick samplers (PCAP’s). Soil from an OA-horizon of mixed conifer forest Jemez River Basin Critical Zone Observatory (JRB-CZO) in NM was sampled twice and in situ samples from co-located suction cups and PCAPs were collected 7 times during the 2011 snowmelt period. Dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen concentrations (DOC and DN) as well as OM quality (FTIR, fluorescence spectroscopy and PARAFAC) were analyzed. The aqueous soil extracts (solid:solution = 1:5 mass basis) showed highest DOC and lowest DN concentrations whereas samples collected in-situ had lower DOC and higher DN concentrations. PARAFAC analysis using a four component model showed a dominance of fluorescence in region I and II (protein-like fluorescence) for samples collected in situ indicating the presence of more bio-molecules (proteins). In contrast, the dominant PARAFAC component of the soil extract was found in region 3 (fulvic acid-like fluorescence). FTIR analysis showed high intensity band at 1600 cm-1 in the case of the aqueous soil extract that correspond to asymmetric stretching of carboxyl groups. These preliminary results indicate that aqueous soil extracts likely lead to the underestimation of the amount of biomolecules and the overestimation of fulvic acid contents of soil solutions.
Perdrial, J.N., Perdrial, N., Harpold, A.A., Peterson, A.M., Vasquez, A., Chorover, J. (2011): Probing dissolved organic matter in the critical zone: a comparison between in situ sampling and aqueous soil extracts. AGU Fall Meeting Presentations (Poster) Abstract B51A-0385..