Using Mid Infrared Spectroscopy to Predict the Decomposability of Soil Organic Matter Stored in Arctic Tundra Soils

TitleUsing Mid Infrared Spectroscopy to Predict the Decomposability of Soil Organic Matter Stored in Arctic Tundra Soils
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsMatamala R., Fan Z, Jastrow J., Liang C., Calderon F, Michaelson G., Ping C., Mishra U., Hofmann S.
Conference Name2016 American Geophysical Union Annual Meeting
Date Published12/2017
PublisherAmerican Geophysical Union
Conference LocationSan Francisco, CA
ARIS Log Number345796

The large amounts of organic matter stored in permafrost-region soils are preserved in a relatively undecomposed state by the cold and wet environmental conditions limiting decomposer activity. With pending climate changes and the potential for warming of Arctic soils, there is a need to better understand the amount and potential susceptibility to mineralization of the carbon stored in the soils of this region. Studies have suggested that soil C:N ratio or other indicators based on the molecular composition of soil organic matter could be good predictors of potential decomposability. In this study, we investigated the capability of Fourier-transform mid infrared spectroscopy (MidIR) spectroscopy to predict the evolution of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by Arctic tundra soils during a 60-day laboratory incubation. Soils collected from four tundra sites on the Coastal Plain, and Arctic Foothills of the North Slope of Alaska were separated into active-layer organic, active-layer mineral, and upper permafrost and incubated at 1, 4, 8 and 16 °C. Carbon dioxide production was measured throughout the incubations. Total soil organic carbon (SOC) and total nitrogen (TN) concentrations, salt (0.5 M K2SO4) extractable organic matter (SEOM), and MidIR spectra of the soils were measured before and after incubation. Multivariate partial least squares (PLS) modeling was used to predict cumulative CO2 production, decay rates, and the other measurements. MidIR reliably estimated SOC and TN and SEOM concentrations. The MidIR prediction models of CO2 production were very good for active-layer mineral and upper permafrost soils and good for the active-layer organic soils. SEOM was also a very good predictor of CO2 produced during the incubations. Analysis of the standardized beta coefficients from the PLS models of CO2 production for the three soil layers indicated a small number (9) of influential spectral bands. Of these, bands associated with O-H and N-H stretch, carbonates, and ester C-O appeared to be most important for predicting CO2 production for both active-layer mineral and upper permafrost soils. Further analysis of these influential bands and their relationships to SEOM in soil will be explored. Our results show that the MidIR spectra contains valuable information that can be related to decomposability of soils.