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Applications of stable isotope ratio mass spectrometry in cattle dung carbon cycling studies

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Elisa Lopez-Capel, Professor David ManningORCiD


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Understanding the fate of dung carbon (C) in soils is challenging due to the ubiquitous presence of the plant-derived organic matter (OM), the source material from which both dung-derived OM and soil organic matter (SOM) predominantly originate. A better understanding of the fate of specific components of this substantial source of OM, and thereby its contribution to C cycling in terrestrial ecosystems, can only be achieved through the use of labelled dung treatments. In this short review, we consider analytical approaches using bulk and compound-specific stable carbon isotope analysis that have been utilised to explore the fate of dung-derived C in soils. Bulk stable carbon isotope analyses are now used routinely to explore OM matter cycling in soils, and have shown that up to 20% of applied dung C may be incorporated into the surface soil horizons several weeks after application, with up to 8% remaining in the soil profile after one year. However, whole soil δ13C values represent the average of a wide range of organic components with varying δ13C values and mean residence times in soils. Several stable 13C isotope ratio mass spectrometric methods have been developed to qualify and quantify different fractions of OM in soils and other complex matrices. In particular, thermo-gravimetry-differential scanning calorimetry-isotope ratio mass spectrometry (TG-DSC-IRMS) and gas chromatography-combustion-IRMS (GC-C-IRMS) analyses have been applied to determine the incorporation and turnover of polymeric plant cell wall materials from C4 dung into C3 grassland soils using natural abundance 13C isotope labelling. Both approaches showed that fluxes of C derived from polysaccharides, i.e. as cellulose or monosaccharide components, were more similar to the behaviour of bulk dung C in soil than lignin. However, lignin and its 4-hydroxypropanoid monomers were unexpectedly dynamic in soil. These findings provide further evidence for emerging themes in biogeochemical investigations of soil OM dynamics that challenge perceived concepts of recalcitrance of C pools in soils, which may have profound implications for the assessment of the potential of agricultural soils to influence terrestrial C sinks. © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Dungait J, Bol R, Lopez-Capel E, Bull I, Chadwick D, Amelung W, Granger S, Manning D, Evershed R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry

Year: 2010

Volume: 24

Issue: 5

Pages: 495-500

Print publication date: 28/01/2010

ISSN (print): 0951-4198

ISSN (electronic): 1097-0231

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


DOI: 10.1002/rcm.4332

Notes: 1st Meeting of the British Mass Spectrometry Society, University of Glasgow, 13-14 January 2009.


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Funder referenceFunder name
BBS/E/C/00005744Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council