Changes in water extractable organic matter during incubation of forest floor material in the presence of quartz, goethite and gibbsite surfaces

Katherine Heckman, Angelica Vazquez-Ortega, Xiaodong Gao, Jon Chorover, Craig Rasmussen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The release of dissolved organic matter (DOM) from forest floor material constitutes a significant flux of C to the mineral soil in temperate forest ecosystems, with estimates on the order of 120-500kgCha-1year-1. Interaction of DOM with minerals and metals results in sorptive fractionation and stabilization of OM within the soil profile. Iron and aluminum oxides, in particular, have a significant effect on the quantity and quality of DOM transported through forest soils due to their high surface area and the toxic effects of dissolved aluminum on microbial communities. We directly examined these interactions by incubating forest floor material, including native microbiota, for 154days in the presence of (1) goethite (α-FeOOH), (2) gibbsite (γ-Al(OH)3), and (3) quartz (α-SiO2) sand (as a control). Changes in molecular and thermal properties of water extractable organic matter (WEOM, as a proxy for DOM) were evaluated. WEOM was harvested on days 5, 10, 20, 30, 60, 90, and 154, and examined by thermogravimetry/differential thermal analysis (TG/DTA) and diffuse reflectance Fourier transform infrared (DRIFT) spectroscopy. Results indicated significant differences in WEOM quality among treatments, though the way in which oxide surfaces influenced WEOM properties did not seem to change significantly with increasing incubation time. Dissolved organic C concentrations were significantly lower in WEOM from the oxide treatments in comparison to the control treatment. Incubation with goethite produced WEOM with mid-to-high-range thermal lability that was depleted in both protein and fatty acids relative to the control. The average enthalpy of WEOM from the goethite treatment was significantly higher than either the gibbsite or control treatment, suggesting that interaction with goethite surfaces increases the energy content of WEOM. Incubation with gibbsite produced WEOM rich in thermally recalcitrant and carboxyl-rich compounds in comparison to the control treatment. These data indicate that interaction of WEOM with oxide surfaces significantly influences the composition of WEOM and that oxides play an important role in determining the biogeochemistry of forest soil DOM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4295-4309
Number of pages15
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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