The characterization of a lignin-derived organic matter fraction in soils developed under different vegetation types.

Published online
27 Aug 1997
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Sanger, L. J. & Cox, P. & Splatt, P. & Whelan, M. J. & Anderson, J. M.

Publication language


Soil profiles developed under beech (Fagus sylvatica) woodland, spruce (Picea abies) woodland, pasture, and arable cropping in the UK were analysed for total organic C and lignin derivatives extracted by CuO oxidation. This reaction primarily released lignin-derived phenylpropanoid moieties from soil organic matter (SOM). The amount and composition of the moieties obtained provided a signature that was related to the origin of organic matter from particular soil horizons. There were clear differences between the lignin-derived phenylpropanoid signatures from similar depth horizons of soils developed under beech, spruce, and pasture. This was characterized by: (i) equal amounts of syringyl and vanillyl residues; (ii) a low syringyl:vanillyl ratio; and (iii) high concentration of ferulic acid, respectively, in the surface soil layers. The arable soil profile showed little differentiation in phenylpropanoid signature with depth (0-18 cm), presumably because of annual tillage. Further investigation into the degradation rates of individual phenylpropanoid moieties in soils and their adsorption onto soil fractions is required. A more extensive survey, characterizing the lignin-derived fraction in soils with a well documented land use history is also needed to establish a time scale for the translocation and degradation of the phenylpropanoid signatures of soils. Once calibrated, however, temporal changes in the composition of the lignin-phenylpropanoid SOM fraction will be potentially useful in monitoring the effects of vegetation and land management change on soil C cycling.

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