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Radiocarbon-based estimation of soil carbon turnover in a cool-temperate beech forest

Koarashi, Jun  ; Atarashi-Andoh, Mariko ; Ishizuka, Shigehiro*; Saito, Takeshi*; Hirai, Keizo*; Miura, Satoru*

Recent debate has emphasized that our capacity to predict the response of soil organic carbon (SOC) to climate change depends on a clear understanding of the heterogeneity in SOC biodegradability. We collected soil samples from the Appi forest meteorology research site dominated by Japanese beech, separated the soil samples into three SOC fractions with a chemical method, and determined their radiocarbon isotope ratios using an accelerator mass spectrometry. The radiocarbon signatures allow us to estimate their turnover times (TTs), quantifying the rates of SOC decomposition. According to the estimated TTs, the SOC was distinguished into six SOC pools with distinct TTs of several years to $$>$$ 1000 years. The annual SOC decomposition rate was summed up to 0.47 kgC m$$^{-2}$$ y$$^{-1}$$, about a half of which was from the fastest-cycling pool (litter). Approximately 5% of SOC gave the over-millennium TTs, suggesting that this pool plays a role of a long-term carbon sequestration in the carbon cycle.

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