The importance of lignin as a recalcitrant constituent of soil organic matter (SOM) remains contested. Associations with iron (Fe) oxides have been proposed to specifically protect lignin from decomposition, but impacts of Fe-lignin interactions on mineralization rates remain unclear. Oxygen (O2) fluctuations characteristic of humid tropical soils drive reductive Fe dissolution and precipitation, facilitating multiple types of Fe-lignin interactions that could variably decompose or protect lignin. We tested impacts of Fe addition on 13C methoxyl-labeled lignin mineralization in soils that were exposed to static or fluctuating O2. Iron addition suppressed lignin mineralization to 21% of controls, regardless of O2 availability. However, Fe addition had no effect on soil CO2 production, implying that Fe oxides specifically protected lignin methoxyls but not bulk SOM. Iron oxide-lignin interactions represent a specific mechanism for lignin stabilization, linking SOM biochemical composition to turnover via geochemistry.
Hall, Steven J. Silver, Whendee L. Timokhin, Vitaliy I. Hammel, Kenneth E. (2016): Iron addition to soil specifically stabilized lignin. Soil Biology and Biochemistry. DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2016.04.010
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.