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Practical guide on soil sampling, treatment, and carbon isotope analysis for carbon cycle studies

Koarashi, Jun  ; Atarashi-Andoh, Mariko ; Nagano, Hirohiko*  ; Sugiharto, U.*; Saengkorakot, C.*; Suzuki, Takashi ; Kokubu, Yoko  ; Fujita, Natsuko ; Kinoshita, Naoki; Nagai, Haruyasu ; Liang, N.*; Matsuzaki, Hiroyuki*; Katata, Genki*

There is growing concern that recent rapid changes in climate and environment could have a significant influence on carbon cycling in terrestrial ecosystems (especially forest ecosystems) and could consequently lead to a positive feedback for global warming. The magnitude and timing of this feedback remain highly uncertain largely due to a lack of quantitative understanding of the dynamics of organic carbon stored in soils and its responses to changes in climate and environment. The tracing of radiocarbon (natural and bomb-derived $$^{14}$$C) and stable carbon ($$^{13}$$C) isotopes through terrestrial ecosystems can be a powerful tool for studying soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics. The primary aim of this guide is to promote the use of isotope-based approaches to improve our understanding of the carbon cycling in soils, particularly in the Asian region. The guide covers practical methods of soil sampling; treatment and fractionation of soil samples; preparation of soil samples for $$^{13}$$C (and stable nitrogen isotope, $$^{15}$$N) and $$^{14}$$C analyses; and $$^{13}$$C, $$^{15}$$N, and $$^{14}$$C measurements by the use of isotope ratio mass spectrometry and accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS). The guide briefly introduces ways to report $$^{14}$$C data, which are frequently used for soil carbon cycling studies. The guide also reports results of a case study conducted in a Japanese forest ecosystem, as a practical application of the use of isotope-based approaches. This guide is mainly intended for researchers who are interested but are not experienced in this research field. The guide will hopefully encourage readers to participate in soil carbon cycling studies, including field works, laboratory experiments, isotope analyses, and discussions with great interest.

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