AbstractAssociations between minerals and organic matter represent one of the most important carbon storage mechanisms in soils. Plant roots are major sources of soil carbon, and resolving the dynamics and dominance of microbial consumption versus mineral sorption of root-derived carbon is critical to understanding soil carbon storage. Here we integrate in-situ rhizosphere microsensor and plant physiological measurements with a 3-D plant-soil reactive transport model to explore the fate of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in the rhizosphere, particularly its microbial consumption and interaction with Fe oxide minerals. Over several days, a microdialysis probe sampling pore water at the root-soil interface of growing Vicia faba roots in live soil, revealed clear diel patterns of DOC concentration. Daytime DOC spikes coincided with peaks in leaf-level photosynthesis rates and were accompanied by declining redox potential and dissolved oxygen as well as increasing pH in the rhizosphere. Incorporating microsensor data into our modeling framework showed that the measured rapid loss of DOC after each mid-day spike could not be explained by consumption via aerobic respiration, nor via anaerobic respiration dominated by Fe oxide reduction. Rather, in the model, a large fraction of rhizosphere DOC was rapidly immobilized each day by adsorption to Fe oxides. Further, modeled microbial Fe reduction (fueled by DOC) did not mobilize significant organic carbon from Fe oxides during the day. Instead, the model predicted equilibrium desorption of organic carbon from Fe oxides at night. This new mechanistic modeling framework, which couples aboveground plant physiological measurements with non-destructive high-resolution monitoring of rhizosphere processes, has great potential for exploring the dynamics and balance of the various microbial reactions and mineral interactions controlling carbon transformations and storage in soils.
Published: September 13, 2023