, Volume 130, Issue 1–2, pp 103–116 | Cite as

Tree taxa and pyrolysis temperature interact to control the efficacy of pyrogenic organic matter formation

  • Pierre-Joseph Hatton
  • Subhasish Chatterjee
  • Timothy R. Filley
  • Keyvan Dastmalchi
  • Alain F. Plante
  • Samuel Abiven
  • Xiaodong Gao
  • Caroline A. Masiello
  • Steven W. Leavitt
  • Knute J. Nadelhoffer
  • Ruth E. Stark
  • Jeffrey A. Bird


We know little about how shifts in tree species distribution and increases in forest fire intensity could affect the formation of pyrogenic organic matter (PyOM) or charcoal, one of the most important and persistent soil organic matter pools. This limitation arises partly because the role of the precursor wood in controlling PyOM formation is unclear. The current study shows how tree species and pyrolysis temperature (200, 300, 450 and 600 °C) interact to control the physicochemical structure of the PyOM experimentally derived from 13C/15N-enriched Pinus banksania and Acer rubrum, two important co-occurring gymnosperm and angiosperm tree species from North American boreal-temperate ecotones. Complementary physicochemical and thermodynamic measurements revealed different susceptibilities of the two wood species to charring, with PyOM intermediates formed at lower temperature from the pine, indicating that the tree species regulated the efficacy of PyOM formation. Particularly, we report high-resolution data describing the comprehensive chemical architecture of PyOM (both –C and –N) as they are formed, which are complemented by unique molecular-level insights on their labile fractions. We posit that the tree species and pyrolysis temperature interaction reflects distinctive anatomical features of the two major tree taxa, including greater effective porosity in gymnosperms that promote the loss of volatiles and enhance the heat exposure of bio-components. This study points to a higher temperature threshold for PyOM production in maple forests compared with pine forests, resulting in potentially more degradable and less sorbtive PyOM in ecotones dominated by the former species.


Char Black C Wood NMR TMAH 



Pyrogenic organic matter


Jack pine


Red maple


Brunauer-Emmett-Teller–N2 surface area


Solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance


Cross polarization-magic-angle spinning


Direct polarization-magic-angle spinning


Magic-angle spinning


Diffuse reflectance infrared Fourier transmission


13C-labeled tetramethylammonium hydroxide



This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (DEB-1127253). The NMR resources were supported by The City College of New York (CCNY) and the CUNY Institute of Macromolecular Assemblies, with infrastructural assistance provided by the National Institutes of Health through the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (8G12 MD007603). We are grateful to F. Santos for growing the RM, B. Dewey for performing the proximate C analyses and to the UC Davis Stable Isotope Facility for isotope analyses. We thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.

Author Contributions

JAB, TRF and KJN conceived and designed the study. PJH analyzed the data and was the primary author of the manuscript. RES and SC designed the NMR experiments, which were performed and analyzed by SC, KD, and RES. TRF did the 13C-TMAH measurements. AFP did the thermal analyses. SA did the DRIFT measurements. XG and CM did the pycnometry and SA measurements. SL did the cellulose extractions. The manuscript was written through contributions of all authors. All authors contributed to interpreting the data and editing the manuscript. All authors have given approval to the final version of the manuscript.

Funding Sources

National Science Foundation (DEB-1127253).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pierre-Joseph Hatton
    • 1
    • 2
  • Subhasish Chatterjee
    • 3
  • Timothy R. Filley
    • 4
  • Keyvan Dastmalchi
    • 3
  • Alain F. Plante
    • 5
  • Samuel Abiven
    • 6
  • Xiaodong Gao
    • 7
  • Caroline A. Masiello
    • 7
  • Steven W. Leavitt
    • 8
  • Knute J. Nadelhoffer
    • 2
  • Ruth E. Stark
    • 3
    • 9
  • Jeffrey A. Bird
    • 1
    • 10
  1. 1.School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Queens CollegeCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, City College and CUNY Institute for Macromolecular AssembliesCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and the Purdue Climate Change Research CenterPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  5. 5.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  6. 6.Department of GeographyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  7. 7.Departments of Earth Science, BioSciences, and ChemistryRice UniversityHoustonUSA
  8. 8.Laboratory of Tree-Ring ResearchUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  9. 9.Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics PhD ProgramsThe Graduate Center of The City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA
  10. 10.Earth and Environmental Sciences and Biology PhD ProgramsThe Graduate Center of The City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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