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Concept: Soil horizon


Soils are Earth’s largest terrestrial carbon © pool, and their responsiveness to land use and management make them appealing targets for strategies to enhance C sequestration. Numerous studies have identified practices that increase soil C, but their inferences are often based on limited data extrapolated over large areas. Here, we combine 15,000 observations from two national-level databases with remote sensing information to address the impacts of reforestation on the sequestration of C in topsoils (uppermost mineral soil horizons). We quantify C stocks in cultivated, reforesting, and natural forest topsoils; rates of C accumulation in reforesting topsoils; and their contribution to the US forest C sink. Our results indicate that reforestation increases topsoil C storage, and that reforesting lands, currently occupying >500,000 km2in the United States, will sequester a cumulative 1.3-2.1 Pg C within a century (13-21 Tg C·y-1). Annually, these C gains constitute 10% of the US forest sector C sink and offset 1% of all US greenhouse gas emissions.

Concepts: Sulfur, Soil horizon, Topsoil, Carbon dioxide, Subsoil, Deforestation, Greenhouse gas, Soil


Forests play a key role in the carbon cycle as they store huge quantities of organic carbon, most of which is stored in soils, with a smaller part being held in vegetation. While the carbon storage capacity of forests is influenced by forestry, the long-term impacts of forest managers' decisions on soil organic carbon (SOC) remain unclear. Using a meta-analysis approach, we showed that conventional biomass harvests preserved the SOC of forests, unlike intensive harvests where logging residues were harvested to produce fuelwood. Conventional harvests caused a decrease in carbon storage in the forest floor, but when the whole soil profile was taken into account, we found that this loss in the forest floor was compensated by an accumulation of SOC in deeper soil layers. Conversely, we found that intensive harvests led to SOC losses in all layers of forest soils. We assessed the potential impact of intensive harvests on the carbon budget, focusing on managed European forests. Estimated carbon losses from forest soils suggested that intensive biomass harvests could constitute an important source of carbon transfer from forests to the atmosphere (142-497 Tg-C), partly neutralizing the role of a carbon sink played by forest soils.

Concepts: Oxygen, Photosynthesis, Soil horizon, Carbon cycle, Carbon dioxide, Carbon, Biochar, Soil


A consistent decreasing trend in acidic deposition levels over the past several decades has led to partial chemical recovery of surface waters. However, depletion of soil Ca from acidic deposition has slowed surface water recovery and led to the impairment of both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Nevertheless, documentation of acidic deposition effects on soils has been limited, and little is known regarding the response of soils to ongoing declines in acidic deposition. To address this problem, resampling of soils in eastern Canada and the northeastern U.S. was done at 27 sites exposed to reductions in wet SO42- deposition of 5.7% to 76%, over intervals of 8 to 24 years. Decreases of exchangeable Al in the O horizon, and increases in pH in the O and B horizons were seen at a majority of sites. Among all sites, reductions in SO42- deposition were positively correlated with base saturation (P < 0.01), and negatively correlated with exchangeable Al (P < 0.05) in the O horizon. However, base saturation in the B horizon decreased at one-third of the sites, with no increases. These results are the first to show that some of the effects of acidic deposition on soils have begun to reverse.

Concepts: Diode, Canada, Base, Acid, Soil horizon, PH, Water, Soil


Microbial communities play critical roles in soil nitrogen (N) cycle; however, we have limited understanding of the distribution of N-cycling microbial groups in deeper soil horizons. In this study, we used quantitative PCR to characterize the changes of microbial populations (16S rRNA and 18S rRNA) and five key N-cycling gene abundances involved in N fixation (nifH), ammonia oxidation (amoA) by ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA), and nitrite reduction (nirS and nirK) along profiles (0-100 cm depth) of different paddy soils from three regions (Hailun, Changshu, Yingtan) across China from north to south. We found that most microbial and N-cycling functional genes significantly decreased with soil depth; however, AOA were enriched in deeper soil layers (20-40 cm). The abundances of microbial and N-cycling functional genes generally decreased by one to two orders of magnitude in the deeper horizons relative to topsoils. The AOA gene abundance was higher than that of AOB in the paddy soil profile, and the nirS and nirK abundances were dominant in topsoil and deeper soil, respectively. All N functional genes except AOA were more abundant in Changshu than Hailun and Yingtan. High abundances and low vertical changes of N-cycling genes in Changshu suggest more dynamic N-transformations in this region. Correlation analysis showed that soil properties and climate parameters had a significant relationship with N-cycling gene abundances. Moreover, the abundance of different N-cycling genes was affected by different environmental parameters, which should be studied further to explore their roles in N cycling for sustainable agriculture and environmental management.

Concepts: Microbiology, DNA, Nitrogen, Soil horizon, Bacteria, Soil, Ribosomal RNA, Archaea


Ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) and bacteria (AOB) oxidize ammonia into nitrite, the first and rate-limiting step of microbial nitrification, and exert major controls over soil nitrogen transformations. The Loess Plateau in northwest China is characterized with deep soils that are often exposed to the surface and reactive nitrogen (N) inputs due to erosion and human removal of the surface soil. However, few have examined the distribution of AOA and AOB along the profile of Loess Plateau soils and their responses to N inputs. We examined the abundance and diversity of AOA and AOB along the soil profile (0-100cm) and their responses to two levels of N inputs (low at 10, and high at 100μgNg-1 soil) in a 55-d incubation experiment. While AOB were most numerous in the surface soil (0-20cm), AOA were most abundant in the subsoils (20-40 and 40-60cm), suggesting a niche differentiation between AOA and AOB along the soil profile. High N input increased AOB nearly ten-fold in the upper two layers of soils (0-20 and 20-40cm) and sixteen to twenty-five fold in the deeper soil layers (40-60, 60-80 and 80-100cm). However, it only increased AOA by 7% (40-60cm) to 48% (20-40cm). In addition, potential nitrification rate and N2O emissions correlated only with AOB. Finally, high N input significantly increased AOB diversity and led to nitrite accumulation in deep soil layers (60-80 and 80-100cm). Together, our results showed that high N input can significantly alter the diversity and function of ammonia-oxidizing microbes in the deep soil of Loess Plateau, suggesting the need to examine the generality of the observed changes and their potential environmental impacts.

Concepts: Soil horizon, Microorganism, Loess Plateau, Erosion, Nitrogen, Archaea, Bacteria, Soil


Intake of soil by children and adults is a major exposure pathway to contaminants including potentially toxic elements (PTEs). However, only the fraction of PTEs released in stomach and intestine are considered as bioaccessible and results from routine analyses of the total PTE content in soils, therefore, are not necessarily related to the degree of bioaccessibility. Experimental methods to determine bioaccessibility usually are time-consuming and relatively complicated in terms of analytical procedures which limits application in first tier assessments. In this study we evaluated the potential suitability of a recently developed single extract method (ISO-17586:2016) using dilute (0.43M) nitric acid (HNO3) to mimic the bioaccessible fraction of PTEs in soils. Results from 204 soils from Portugal, Brazil and the Netherlands including all major soil types and a wide range of PTEs' concentrations showed that the extraction efficiency using 0.43M HNO3 of Ba, Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn in soils is related to that of in vitro methods including the Simple Bioaccessibility Extraction Test (SBET) and Unified BARGE Method (UBM). Also, differences in the degree of bioaccessibility resulting from differences in parent material, geology and climate conditions did not affect the response of the 0.43M HNO3 extraction which is a prerequisite to be able to compare results from different soils. The use of 0.43M HNO3 as a first screening of bioaccessibility therefore offers a robust and representative way to be included in first tier standard soil tests to estimate the oral bioaccessibility.

Concepts: Geology, Soil horizon, Zinc, Assessment, Nitric oxide, Evaluation, Nitric acid, Soil classification


UV-visible absorption spectroscopy combined with principal component analysis (PCA) and two-dimensional correlation (2D correlation) is used to trace components of dissolved organic matter (DOM) extracted from soils in a larger estuarine delta and to investigate spatial variations of DOM fractions. Soil samples of different depths were collected from native halophyte soils along a saline gradient, i.e., Suaeda salsa Comm. (SSC), Chenopodium album Comm. (CAC), Phragmites australis Comm. (PAC), and Artemisia selengensis Comm. (ASC). Molecular weights of DOM within the SSC soil profile were the lowest, followed by the CAC, PAC, and ASC soil profiles. Humification degree of DOM within the ASC soil profile was the highest, followed by the PAC, SSC, and CAC soil profiles. DOM within the soil profiles mainly contained phenolic, carboxylic, microbial products, and aromatic and alkyl groups through the PCA, which presented the significant differentiation among the four native halophyte soil profiles. The 2D UV correlation spectra of DOM within the SSC soil profile indicated that the variations of the phenolic groups were the largest, followed by the carboxylic groups, microbial products, and humified organic materials according to the band changing order of 285 → 365 → 425 → 520 nm. The 2D UV correlation spectra of DOM within the CAC soil profiles determined that the decreasing order of the variations was phenolic groups > carboxylic groups > microbial products according the band changing order of 285 → 365 → 425 nm. The 2D UV correlation spectra of DOM within the PAC soil profile proved that the variations of the phenolic groups were larger than those of the carboxylic groups according to the band changing order of 285 → 365 nm. The 2D UV correlation spectra of DOM within the ASC soil profile demonstrated that the variations of the phenolic groups were larger than those of the other DOM fractions according to the broad cross-peak at 285/365-700 nm.

Concepts: Electromagnetic radiation, Archaea, Biotic material, Soil horizon, Principal component analysis, Humus, Organic matter, Soil


Temperature records and model predictions demonstrate that deep soils warm at the same rate as surface soils, contrary to Xiaoet al’s assertions. In response to Xiaoet al’s critique of our Q10analysis, we present the results with all data points included, which show Q10values of >2 throughout the soil profile, indicating that all soil depths responded to warming.

Concepts: Zinc, Sulfur, Unified Modeling Language, Flux, Charcoal, Weathering, Soil horizon, Soil


The Itataia uranium-phosphate deposit is the largest uranium reserve in Brazil. Rare earth elements (REEs) are commonly associated with phosphate deposits; however, there are no studies on the concentrations of REEs in soils of the Itataia deposit region. Thus, the objective of the research was to evaluate the concentration and spatial variability of REEs in topsoils of Itataia phosphate deposit region. In addition, the influence of soil properties on the geochemistry of REEs was investigated. Results showed that relatively high mean concentrations (mg kg-1) of heavy REEs (Gd 6.01; Tb 1.25; Ho 1.15; Er 4.05; Tm 0.64; Yb 4.61; Lu 0.65) were found in surface soils samples. Soil properties showed weak influence on the geochemical behavior of REEs in soils, except for the clay content. On the other hand, parent material characteristics, such as P and U, had strong influence on REEs concentrations. Spatial distribution patterns of REEs in soils are clearly associated with P and U contents. Therefore, geochemical surveys aiming at the delineation of ore-bearing zones in the region can benefit from our data. The results of this work reinforce the perspective for co-mining of P, U and REEs in this important P-U reserve.

Concepts: Phosphate, Soil horizon, Geology, Lutetium, Uranium, Ytterbium, Rare earth element, Chemistry


Substrate type is a key-factor in nest-site selection and nest architecture of burrowing birds. However, little is known about which factors drive nest-site selection for these species, especially in the tropics. We studied the influence of soil attributes on nest-site selection by the campo miner Geositta poeciloptera, an open grassland bird that builds its nests within soil cavities. For all nests found, we measured the depth of the nest cavity and the resistance of the soil to penetration, and identified the soil horizon in which the nest was located. In soil banks with nests, we collected soil samples for granulometric analysis around each nest cavity, while in soil banks without nests we collected these samples at random points. From 43 nests found, 86% were located in the deeper soil horizons (C-horizon), and only 14% in the shallower horizons (B-horizon). Granulometric analysis showed that the C-horizons possessed a high similar granulometric composition, with high silt and low clay contents. These characteristics are associated with a low degree of structural development of the soil, which makes it easier to excavate. Contrarily, soil resistance to penetration does not seem to be an important criterion for nest site selection, although nests in more resistant the soils tend to have shallower nest cavities. Among the soil banks analyzed, 40% of those without cavities possessed a larger proportion of B-horizon relative to the C-horizon, and their texture was more clayey. On the other hand, almost all soil banks containing nest cavities had a larger C-horizon and a silty texture, indicating that soil attributes drive nest-site selection by G. poeciloptera. Thus, we conclude that the patchy distribution of G. poeciloptera can attributed to the infrequent natural exposure of the C-horizon in the tropical region, where well developed, deep and permeable soils are more common.

Concepts: Silt, Soil horizon, Tropics, Soil