Soil pH and organic C dynamics in tropical forest soils: Evidence from laboratory and simulation studies


Acidic soil pH may affect decomposition of added organic materials in humid tropical forest soils. Our objective was to determine the effects of soil pH on decomposition of added organic materials to tropical forest soils of different soil texture and clay mineralogy. Release of 14CO2 and microbial biomass 14C were measured during a 270-d incubation at 25°C after either [14C]glucose or 14C-labeled blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis) material had been added to 13 tropical forest smectitic, kaolinitic, oxidic or allophanic mineralogies. Initial soil pH ranged from 3.9 to 6.7. An additional investigation examined 14CO2 release from kaolinitic or oxidic forest soils to which either Ca(OH)2 or CaSO4 had been previously applied to obtain 5 soil pH values. Initial soil pH and cumulative 14CO2 release in glucose-amended soils were positively related only after 1 and 4 d. In contrast, plant-residue-amended soils had positive relationships between initial soil pH and cumulative 14CO2 release after 7 d and continued with that relationship up to 270 d. Microbial biomass 14C was reduced at lower pH values in both glucose-and plant-residue-amended soils after 270 d. Water-extractable 14C was also higher at pH > 5.5 in plant-residue-amended soils after 58 d. Differences in soil texture and clay mineralogy had no apparent effect on the relationship between soil pH and decomposition. Simulated results of the experiment using the CENTURY Soil Organic Matter Model diverged from observed results for soils with pH < 6.5. Further research is required to determine the effects of acidic soil pH on decomposition rates of stable C pools and to develop functions for simulation models to account for the short- and long-term effects of soil acidity on decomposition.


Soil Biogeochemistry and Microbial Ecology

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Soil Biology and Biochemistry



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© 1995 Published by Elsevier Ltd.