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Life Sciences - Agriculture | VIRTUAL ISSUE No. 3: Soil Carbon

VIRTUAL ISSUE No. 3: Soil Carbon

Welcome to Plant and Soil VIRTUAL ISSUES 

A new initiative in providing a service for readers of Plant and Soil

In view of the rapid development of studies on soil-plant interactions, we are pleased to announce our new feature: “Virtual Special Issues”. These Special Issues bring together a selection of papers on a specific topic that were recently published in Plant and Soil.
We proudly present the 3rd Virtual Issue of Plant and Soil:


Soil Carbon

Understanding, quantifying and managing soil carbon dynamics are areas of research vital in the context of terrestrial feedbacks to climate change, and to the sustainability of soils for provision of diverse ecosystem services. Maintenance of soil organic matter (SOM) is essential for soil structure to support storage of water, aeration and resistance to erosion, while SOM also represents the dominant stock of elements required for plant growth. Both the retention and loss of SOM is dependent on biotic processes, being inherent to the metabolic processes that transform and consume plant inputs. These fluxes of plant-derived C through soil food webs are also intimately coupled to soil nutrient cycling, and therefore, constitute feedbacks that mediate plant competition and ecosystem productivity (Fischer et al. 2014). These plant-soil interactions are complex, are affected by environmental variables, and outcomes for soil carbon (C) stocks are difficult to predict, or indeed to quantify (Kopittke et al. 2013; Haugwitz et al. 2014; Peuhl et al. 2012). Research directed to resolving these uncertainties is central to the remit of Plant and Soil and encompasses biophysical and modelling approaches.
Soil C balance is determined by the relative magnitudes of inputs from plants; in the forms of litter, crop residues, root turnover and rhizodeposition; and of losses resulting from SOM mineralisation, leaching of dissolved organic matter and soil erosion. Quantification of plant inputs, particularly belowground, remains a research challenge, but is increasingly being understood through use of isotopic labelling approaches (Pausch et al. 2013; Fahey et al. 2013; Tian et al. 2013a). The quantity and quality of these inputs (e.g. recalcitrance and C-to-nitrogen (N) ratio) differ between ecosystems and subsequently strongly affect microbial communities and nutrient cycling processes (Sanaullah et al. 2014; Ampleman et al. 2014). At a finer level, C-deposition varies as functions of crop type and genotype (Fischer et al. 2014), leading to increasing interest in the potential of crop selection and rotation management as a means to promote soil C-storage (Redin et al. 2014). This can be seen as exploiting the capacity of soils to sequester C, particularly those where stocks have been depleted due to past intensive management (Lockwell et al. 2012). For agricultural systems, the balance between C-storage and loss is complex, particularly when considered in the context of GHG mitigation and crop productivity. C-accrual is seen as having multiple benefits, including net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere; however, it is microbial turnover of SOM (i.e. consumption) that mobilises nutrients supporting plant growth and potentially reduces fertiliser requirements. Therefore, research areas are developing that consider integrated approaches to management of SOM, through rotations (Kong and Six 2012; Fuentes et al. 2012; Tian et al. 2013b), management (Steffens et al. 2011), use of organic fertilisers (Benbi et al. 2012), tillage practice (Sun et al. 2011; Fuentes et al. 2012; Álvaro-Fuentes et al. 2014) and soil amendments (e.g. biochar, Atkinson et al. 2010; Scheer et al. 2011; Zhao et al. 2014).
Interactions between chemical, physical and biological processes are critical to the understanding of soil C-dynamics (Fonte et al. 2012; Pérès et al. 2013), as are how these interactions shift as a consequence of climate change (Haugwitz et al. 2014; Sanaullah et al. 2014). Currently there are series’ of parallel reports demonstrating the importance of chemical recalcitrance and soil aggregation (Qiu et al. 2012; Pérès et al. 2013) and interactions with mineral surfaces (Schöning et al. 2013) as limitations to SOM decomposition; a current challenge is to consider each of these factors in common systems to establish their relative importance. It is notable that SOM decomposition in subsoils may be regulated by different mechanisms than in more active root-zones (Sanaullah et al. 2011), meaning that the contribution of subsoils to soil-atmosphere C-exchanges may require specific attention (Harper and Tibbett 2013), but also highlighting an opportunity to further probe the controls of SOM decomposition (Rumpel and Kögel-Knabner 2011). Further, recent studies have highlighted that rates of SOM decomposition are affected by the availability of labile (plant-derived) C to microbial communities (i.e. priming effects, Carrillo et al. 2011; Sanaullah et al. 2014), suggesting that simple relationships between plant C-deposition rates and soil C-accrual may not be valid. Therefore, continued development of soil C models is required to incorporate emerging mechanistic understanding of processes, their controls and their interactions (Blagodatsky et al. 2011). This is particularly important for prediction of soil-atmosphere feedbacks to climate change, a recognised limitation of current general circulation models (GCMs), and should include potential interactions with fluxes of other radiatively active gases (N2O and CH4, Shvaleva et al. 2014). Effective progress in this important and fascinating research area will require work at a range of spatial scales and contributions across biophysical disciplines to resolve key plant-soil interactions mediating soil C-cycling processes.
Eric Paterson, Section Editor

Soil organic carbon storage in a no-tillage chronosequence under Mediterranean conditions 

J. Álvaro-Fuentes, D. Plaza-Bonilla, J. L. Arrúe, J. Lampurlanés, C. Cantero-Martínez

Differential soil organic carbon storage at forb- and grass-dominated plant communities, 33 years after tallgrass prairie restoration 

Matt D. Ampleman, Kerri M. Crawford, David A. Fike

Potential mechanisms for achieving agricultural benefits from biochar application to temperate soils: a review 

Christopher J. Atkinson, Jean D. Fitzgerald, Neil A. Hipps

Management of organic amendments in rice-wheat cropping system determines the pool where carbon is sequestered 

D. K. Benbi, A. S. Toor, Shrvan Kumar

Modelling of microbial carbon and nitrogen turnover in soil with special emphasis on N-trace gases emission 

Sergey Blagodatsky, Rüdiger Grote, Ralf Kiese, Christian Werner, Klaus Butterbach-Bahl

Response of soil organic matter pools to elevated CO2 and warming in a semi-arid grassland 

Yolima Carrillo, Elise Pendall, Feike A. Dijkstra, Jack A. Morgan, Joanne M. Newcomb

Partitioning of belowground C in young sugar maple forest 

Timothy J. Fahey, Joseph B. Yavitt, Ruth E. Sherman, Peter M. Groffman, Guoliang Wang

Plant genetic effects on soils under climate change 

D. G. Fischer, S. K. Chapman, A. T. Classen, C. A. Gehring,
K. C. Grady, J. A. Schweitzer, T. G. Whitham

Interactive effects of plants and earthworms on the physical stabilization of soil organic matter in aggregates 

Steven J. Fonte, D. Carolina Quintero, Elena Velásquez, Patrick Lavelle

Conservation agriculture, increased organic carbon in the top-soil macro-aggregates and reduced soil CO2 emissions 

Mariela Fuentes, Claudia Hidalgo, Jorge Etchevers, Fernando De León, Armando Guerrero, Luc Dendooven, Nele Verhulst, Bram Govaerts

The hidden organic carbon in deep mineral soils 

R. J. Harper, M. Tibbett

Soil microorganisms respond to five years of climate change manipulations and elevated atmospheric CO2 in a temperate heath ecosystem 

Merian Skouw Haugwitz, Lasse Bergmark, Anders Priemé,
Søren Christensen, Claus Beier, Anders Michelsen

Microbial community assimilation of cover crop rhizodeposition within soil microenvironments in alternative and conventional cropping systems 

Angela Y. Y. Kong, Johan Six

The age of managed heathland communities: implications for carbon storage? 

G. R. Kopittke, A. Tietema, E. E. van Loon, K. Kalbitz

Soil carbon sequestration potential of willows in short-rotation coppice established on abandoned farm lands 

Jérémie Lockwell, Werther Guidi, Michel Labrecque

Estimation of rhizodeposition at field scale: upscaling of a 14C labeling study 

Johanna Pausch, Jing Tian, Michael Riederer, Yakov Kuzyakov

Mechanisms linking plant community properties to soil aggregate stability in an experimental grassland plant diversity gradient 

G. Pérès, D. Cluzeau, S. Menasseri, et al.

Above- and belowground ecosystem biomass, carbon and nitrogen allocation in recently afforested grassland and adjacent intensively managed grassland 

Matthias Peichl, Natalie Anne Leava, Gerard Kiely

Soil organic carbon losses due to land use change in a semiarid grassland 

Liping Qiu, Xiaorong Wei, Xingchang Zhang, Jimin Cheng, William Gale, Chao Guo, Tao Long

Carbon mineralization in soil of roots from twenty crop species, as affected by their chemical composition and botanical family 

Marciel Redin, René Guénon, Sylvie Recous, Raquel Schmatz, Luana Liberalesso de Freitas, Celso Aita,
Sandro José Giacomini

Deep soil organic matter—a key but poorly understood component of terrestrial C cycle 

Cornelia Rumpel, Ingrid Kögel-Knabner

Decomposition and stabilization of root litter in top- and subsoil horizons: what is the difference? 

Muhammad Sanaullah, Abad Chabbi, Jens Leifeld, Gerard Bardoux, Daniel Billou, Cornelia Rumpel

Effects of drought and elevated temperature on biochemical composition of forage plants and their impact on carbon storage in grassland soil 

Muhammad Sanaullah, Abad Chabbi,Cyril Girardin, Jean-Louis Durand, Magalie Poirier, Cornelia Rumpel

Effect of biochar amendment on the soil-atmosphere exchange of greenhouse gases from an intensive subtropical pasture in northern New South Wales, Australia 

Clemens Scheer, Peter R. Grace, David W. Rowlings, Stephen Kimber, Lukas Van Zwieten

Causes of variation in mineral soil C content and turnover in differently managed beech dominated forests 

Ingo Schöning, Erik Grüneberg, Carlos A. Sierra, Dominik Hessenmöller, Marion Schrumpf, Wolfgang W. Weisser, Ernst-Detlef Schulze

Comparison of methane, nitrous oxide fluxes and CO2 respiration rates from a Mediterranean cork oak ecosystem and improved pasture 

Alla Shvaleva, Filipe Costa e Silva, Joaquim Miguel Costa, et al.

Distribution of soil organic matter between fractions and aggregate size classes in grazed semiarid steppe soil profiles 

Markus Steffens, Angelika Kölbl, Elfriede Schörk, Barbara Gschrey, Ingrid Kögel-Knabner

Distribution of soil carbon and microbial biomass in arable soils under different tillage regimes 

Benhua Sun, Paul D. Hallett, Sandra Caul, Tim J. Daniell, David W. Hopkins

Integrated management systems and N fertilization: effect on soil organic matter in rice-rapeseed rotation 

Jing Tian, Shihua Lu, Mingsheng Fan, Xiaolin Li, Yakov Kuzyakov

Allocation and dynamics of assimilated carbon in rice-soil system depending on water management 

Jing Tian, Johanna Pausch, Mingsheng Fan, Xiaolin Li,
Qiyuan Tang, Yakov Kuzyakov

Successive straw biochar application as a strategy to sequester carbon and improve fertility: A pot experiment with two rice/wheat rotations in paddy soil 

Xu Zhao, Jiangwei Wang, Shenqiang Wang, Guangxi Xing

VIRTUAL ISSUE No. 1: Biochar 

VIRTUAL ISSUE No. 2: The Rhizosphere Microbiota and Plant Health  

VIRTUAL ISSUE No. 4: Factors Affecting Methane Fluxes in Terrestrial Ecosystems 

VIRTUAL ISSUE No. 5: Facing Phosphorus Scarcity