The long residence time of soil organic matter (SOM) is a dynamic property, reflecting the diversity of stabilization mechanisms active within the soil matrix. Climate and ecosystem properties act at the broadest scale, while biochemical recalcitrance, physical occlusion and mineral association drive stability at the microscale. Increasing evidence suggests that the stability of SOM is dominated by organo-mineral interactions. However, the 2:1 clays that provide much of the stabilization capacity in temperate soils are typically absent in tropical soils due to weathering. In contrast, these soils may contain an abundance of iron and aluminium oxides and oxyhydroxides, known as short-range-order (SRO) minerals. These SRO minerals are capable of SOM stabilization through adsorption or co-precipitation, a faculty largely enabled by their high specific surface area (SSA). As such, despite their relatively small mass, SRO minerals may contribute substantially to the SOM stabilization capacity of tropical soils. The objective of this work is to characterize and quantify these Fe-C interactions.
Surface (0-20 cm) soil samples were taken from 20 quantitative soil pits dug within the Luquillo Critical Zone Observatory in northeast Puerto Rico. Soils were stratified across granodiorite and volcaniclastic parent materials. Four extraction procedures were used to isolate three different forms of Fe-C interactions: sodium pyrophosphate to isolate organo-metallic complexes, hydroxylamine and oxalate to isolate SRO Fe- and Al-hydroxides, and dithionite to isolate crystalline Fe-oxyhydroxides. Extracts were analysed for DOC and Fe and Al concentrations to estimate the amount of SOM associated with each mineral type. Soils were subjected to SSA and solid-phase C analyses before and after extraction to determine the contribution of the various Fe mineral types to soil SSA, and therefore to potential stabilization capacity through organo-mineral complexation. Preliminary results suggest that extracts from granodiorite parent material contain on average twice the Fe than those from volcaniclastic parent material. The removal of SRO minerals reduced SSA in both soil types, and appear to contribute substantially to SOM stabilization compared to the bulk mineral matrix.