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Acidity controls on dissolved organic carbon mobility in organic soils

Evans, Chris D.; Jones, Tim G.; Burden, Annette; Ostle, Nick; Zielinski, Piotr; Cooper, Mark D.A.; Peacock, Mike; Clark, Joanna M.; Oulehle, Filip; Cooper, David; Freeman, Chris. 2012 Acidity controls on dissolved organic carbon mobility in organic soils. Global Change Biology, 18 (11). 3317-3331. 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2012.02794.x

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Abstract/Summary

Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations in surface waters have increased across much of Europe and North America, with implications for the terrestrial carbon balance, aquatic ecosystem functioning, water treatment costs and human health. Over the past decade, many hypotheses have been put forward to explain this phenomenon, from changing climate and land management to eutrophication and acid deposition. Resolution of this debate has been hindered by a reliance on correlative analyses of time series data, and a lack of robust experimental testing of proposed mechanisms. In a 4 year, four-site replicated field experiment involving both acidifying and deacidifying treatments, we tested the hypothesis that DOC leaching was previously suppressed by high levels of soil acidity in peat and organo-mineral soils, and therefore that observed DOC increases a consequence of decreasing soil acidity. We observed a consistent, positive relationship between DOC and acidity change at all sites. Responses were described by similar hyperbolic relationships between standardized changes in DOC and hydrogen ion concentrations at all sites, suggesting potentially general applicability. These relationships explained a substantial proportion of observed changes in peak DOC concentrations in nearby monitoring streams, and application to a UK-wide upland soil pH dataset suggests that recovery from acidification alone could have led to soil solution DOC increases in the range 46–126% by habitat type since 1978. Our findings raise the possibility that changing soil acidity may have wider impacts on ecosystem carbon balances. Decreasing sulphur deposition may be accelerating terrestrial carbon loss, and returning surface waters to a natural, high-DOC condition.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2012.02794.x
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biogeochemistry > BGC Topic 1 - Monitoring and Interpretation of Biogeochemical and Climate Changes > BGC - 1.3 - Quantify & attribute changes in biogeochemiical cycles ...
CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > EHFI
CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Water > WA Topic 1 - Variability and Change in Water Systems > WA - 1.1 - Continued long term monitoring and integrated observation of freshwater systems
CEH Sections: Emmett
Shore
ISSN: 1354-1013
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: The attached document is the author’s final manuscript version of the journal article, incorporating any revisions agreed during the peer review process. Some differences between this and the publisher’s version remain. You are advised to consult the publisher’s version if you wish to cite from this article. The definitive version is available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com
Additional Keywords: acidity, dissolved organic carbon, organic soil, peat, podzol, soil carbon, sulphur
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 27 Sep 2012 12:51
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/19763

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