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Organic matter dynamics in the plant-soil system under drought: investigating the importance of roots in the soil carbon stabilization using 13C, 2H, 18O Multi-isotope-labelling technique

Applicant Abiven Samuel
Number 135233
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Geographisches Institut Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Pedology
Start/End 01.05.2011 - 30.04.2015
Approved amount 287'242.00
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Keywords (6)

Global change; organic matter; plant-soil system; roots and rhizosphere; carbon sequestration; stable isotopes

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary

This research project proposes to address a simple question: are the plant roots one of major drivers of the climate change mitigation ? Indeed, the organic matter present in the soils (mainly consisting of plant debris, microbial biomass and plant biomass decomposition products) represents 2/3 of the continental carbon stocks, twice more than the total plant biomass and the atmosphere carbon (mainly CO2)

Recently, several studies pointed out the roots as possible main contributor to this soil organic matter. However, these evidences are indirect, because the access to the roots is extremely challenging, technically but also conceptually. For example, it is not possible to even measure precisely the amount of root for a given plant.

 

In this project, we propose a new direct approach to estimate the root contribution to the soil organic matter. This innovating method is based on a tool, the Multi-Isotopes Chambers in controlled Environment (MICE) device, which has been developed last year by our group. This device is unique world-wide, entirely conceived at the university of Zurich by the team presenting this present proposal, and innovating by many aspects:

- We can control and reproduce almost any climatic conditions (except snow) and, thank to a double chamber system, compare two climatic situations in the same time,

- We can consider the plant - soil system as a whole and in the same time monitor separately the above part of the plant and the soil + roots system, thanks to a specific dual isolation system,

- We are able to trace at a very high spatial and temporal resolution organic molecules from the plant leaves (photosynthesis) to the soil organic matter, via the roots,18C and 13H, 2-Using for the first time in environmental sciences a systematic continuous triple isotopic labelling (using

- Using new features we developed on this device, we can also sample soil and plant material, up to 30 replicates, to study in detail processes and mechanisms in the plant and in the soil.

In this research proposal, we would like to use the MICE device to address this fundamental question: what is the exact role of the roots in the organic matter stabilisation in the soil ? We will use the drought, on of the most probable climatic modifications in central Europe ecosystems, as a driver to modify the root biomass, and then measure directly the contribution of the root carbon to the soil-plant system carbon cycle.

 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Name Institute

Publications

Publication
Multi-isotope labelling of organic matter by diffusion of H-2/O-18-H2O vapour and C-13-CO2 into the leaves and its distribution within the plant
Studer M. S., Siegwolf R. T. W., Leuenberger M., Abiven S. (2015), Multi-isotope labelling of organic matter by diffusion of H-2/O-18-H2O vapour and C-13-CO2 into the leaves and its distribution within the plant, in BIOGEOSCIENCES, 12(6), 1865-1879.
Carbon transfer, partitioning and residence time in the plant-soil system: a comparison of two 13CO2 labelling techniques
Studer Mirjam S., Siegwolf Rolf W., Abiven S. (2014), Carbon transfer, partitioning and residence time in the plant-soil system: a comparison of two 13CO2 labelling techniques, in Biogeosciences, 11(6), 1637-1648.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
PSI Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
DMP Ltd Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
University of Bern Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
EGU (European Geoscience Union) General Assembly Talk given at a conference Increased belowground C release during initial plant development of Populus deltoides x nigra grown under light and C reserve limited conditions 28.04.2014 Vienna, Austria Abiven Samuel; Schmidt Michael W. I.; Studer Mirjam; Siegwolf Rolf Theodor Walter;
Bodenkundliche Gesellschaft der Schweiz Talk given at a conference Multi-Isotope labelling in a Controlled Environment (MICE): a new tool to study C cycling in the plant-soil system 08.02.2013 Zurich, Switzerland Studer Mirjam; Abiven Samuel; Siegwolf Rolf Theodor Walter; Schmidt Michael W. I.;
Soil organic matter workshop 5 Poster Tracing organic matter dynamics within the plant-soil system by continuous multi-isotope labelling (13C, 18O and 2H). 07.10.2012 Ascona, Switzerland Siegwolf Rolf Theodor Walter; Schmidt Michael W. I.; Abiven Samuel; Studer Mirjam;
ISOECOL Poster Dual isotope labelling (13C and 18O) for studying organic matter dynamics within the plant-soil system. 20.08.2012 Brest, France Studer Mirjam; Siegwolf Rolf Theodor Walter; Abiven Samuel; Schmidt Michael W. I.;
Eurosoil Talk given at a conference Can we trace changes in organic matter quality by multi-isotope labeling (13C, 18O and 2H)? 05.07.2012 Bari, Italy, Italy Schmidt Michael W. I.; Siegwolf Rolf Theodor Walter; Abiven Samuel; Studer Mirjam;
EGU (European Geoscience Union) General Assembly Talk given at a conference How to trace organic matter input by living plants into and within the soil? 24.04.2012 Vienna, Austria Schmidt Michael W. I.; Abiven Samuel; Siegwolf Rolf Theodor Walter; Studer Mirjam;
GASIR (German Association of Stable Isotope Research) Meeting Talk given at a conference MULTI-ISOTOPE LABELLING (13C, 18O, 2H) IN A CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENT (MICE) APPLIED TO PLANT-SOIL SYSTEMS 11.10.2011 Vittigen, Switzerland Abiven Samuel; Studer Mirjam; Schmidt Michael W. I.; Siegwolf Rolf Theodor Walter;
DBG (Deutsche Bodenkundliche Gesellschaft) Jahrestagung Talk given at a conference MULTI-ISOTOPE LABELLING (13C, 18O, 2H) IN A CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENT (MICE) APPLIED TO PLANT-SOIL SYSTEMS 07.09.2011 Berlin, Germany Schmidt Michael W. I.; Siegwolf Rolf Theodor Walter; Abiven Samuel; Studer Mirjam;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media Dreckige Geheimnisse UNI Magazin German-speaking Switzerland 2012

Awards

Title Year
MOLTER funding 2012

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
144982 Extending the Multi-Isotopes in a Controlled Environment (MICE) Facility - New climate regulation system and carbon isotope analysers 01.02.2013 R'EQUIP
149507 Effect of drought and irrigation on the roots and the root decomposition of Scots pine 01.02.2014 Project funding (Div. I-III)
153428 Tracing rapid plant responses to environmental changes 01.09.2014 Project funding (Div. I-III)
157778 Next-Iso: Next generation compound-specific isotope analysis of stable and radioactive isotopes of organic components in terrestrial ecosystems 01.02.2015 R'EQUIP

Abstract

This proposal assesses the future development of soil organic matter under changing environment, a task of increasing relevance. Recent literature challenged previous views on soil organic matter formation and turnover: rather than an evolution of the plant residues to more and more complex compounds (humification), new paradigm proposes that the soil organic matter is stabilised on transitory, depending on soil and organic inputs characteristics and the environmental conditions. This new view implies that we take into account the plant - soil system as a whole to investigate the carbon stabilisation mechanisms, and that we consider the impact of climatic events on this system.In the plant - soil system, roots play a key role: on one hand, root derived carbon has characteristics that would enhance carbon stabilisation, on the other hand, the rhizosphere is a zone of the soil where the microbial activity is high, and so the C-CO2 losses can be important. Roots are also a plant organ particularly responsive to climatic events like drought, what further influences its interactions with the surrounding soil.In this project, we will investigate the importance of roots in the carbon stabilisation in the plant - soil system, using drought as a climatic event. We will use a multi-isotope-labelling technique (2H, 13C, 18O) to follow the allocation of carbon from the above ground biomass to the root and the soil, with and without drought, and investigate the root-derived C stabilisation in the soil, during the life of the plant and after one year of the plant residue decomposition. For this proposed study, we will take advantage of the opportunity of scientific expertise and technical know how existing between the two laboratories associated for this project, the laboratory of soil science and biogeography at the University of Zurich and the Research Group for Stable Isotopes and Ecosystem Fluxes at the Paul Scherrer Institute, and the possibility to use a unique experimental facility, the multi-isotope labelling climate chamber, which has been developed to study plant - soil systems in above and below ground plant labelling experiments together with isotope analytical facilities represent the ideal tools for this proposed research.
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