Main content area

What can we learn from ancient fertile anthropic soil (Amazonian Dark Earths, shell mounds, Plaggen soil) for soil carbon sequestration?

Kern, Jürgen, Giani, Luise, Teixeira, Wenceslau, Lanza, Giacomo, Glaser, Bruno
Catena 2019 v.172 pp. 104-112
Anthrosols, calcium, carbon dioxide, carbon sequestration, carbon sinks, iron, land use, magnesium, mineralization, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, soil fertility, soil horizons, soil management, soil organic carbon, temperature, terra preta, topsoil, total organic carbon
Historical land use and soil management left behind anthropic soils such as Amazonian Dark Earths (Terras Pretas de Índio - pretic Anthrosols), Anthropic shell mounds (Sambaquis - terric Anthrosols), and Plaggen soils (plaggic Anthrosols), enriched in soil organic matter and soil fertility. The objective of this study was to compare soil organic matter quantity and quality of these tropical and temperate anthropic soils among each other and against their adjacent non-anthropic soils. All anthropic soil horizons had enhanced total contents of C, N, P, K, Ca, Mg and Fe, reflecting a soil organic matter and nutrient enrichment compared to their reference soils, mostly expressed by the Sambaquis. In order to better understand the mechanisms of soil organic matter stability, besides black carbon analysis, topsoils and subsoils were incubated in the laboratory at 10 °C and 30 °C and the emitted CO2 was recorded for 44-days. The Plaggen soil released the highest amount of CO2 at 30 °C, being two to three times higher compared to Terra Preta de Índio and Sambaqui anthropic horizons. The highest mean residence times (MRT), between 38 and 63 years, were calculated for the subsoils of the anthropic soils incubated at 10 °C. In the artificial system of this study, the stability of anthropic soil horizons under study was not generally enhanced when compared with their reference soils. However, enhanced stability of total organic carbon (TOC) was indicated by a negative relationship between black carbon portion of TOC and the relative amount of CO2-C released from TOC of all anthropic soils. During the incubation period of 44 days, the cumulatively mineralized amount of soil organic carbon (SOC) in the top of anthropic soils at 30 °C was three to six times as high as that at 10 °C. Consequently high temperature under tropical conditions should have stimulated the decay of organic matter, which however was not reflected by high TOC contents found in Terra Preta and Sambaqui samples, corroborating their low degradability in the long term. Therefore, we propagate that a high stability of carbon stocks exists in anthropic soil horizons, which may become a promising opportunity for the establishment of a new generation of anthropic soils with improved soil fertility and soil organic matter using the principle of soil-biochar systems.