Plant and Soil

, Volume 408, Issue 1–2, pp 133–148 | Cite as

Homogenization of detrital leachate in an old-growth coniferous forest, OR: DOC fluorescence signatures in soils undergoing long-term litter manipulations

  • April Strid
  • Baek Soo Lee
  • Kate Lajtha
Regular Article



Characterizing the relationship between plant detrital inputs and the resulting dissolved organic carbon (DOC) leachate is vital to understanding the ultimate fate of root carbon, fallen wood and needles in forested watersheds. Similarly, elucidating chemical differences in the soil DOC pool may help to explain which DOC fractions are sorbed to mineral surfaces and contribute to accumulation of soil organic carbon, are respired as CO2, or are exported to nearby catchments.


In order to test the hypothesis that soils with different detrital inputs impart a detectable signal on DOC in mineral soil, soil solution DOC was sampled from the Detrital Input and Removal Treatment (DIRT) plots located in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, OR. Multiple types of fresh litter extracts, along with lysimeter and soil extracts from DIRT treatment plots were characterized using UV-Vis and fluorescence spectroscopy coupled with the Cory and McKnight (Environ Sci Technol 39:8142–8149, 2005) parallel factor analysis (PARAFAC) model.


Principal component analysis of 13 unique fluorophores distinguished using PARAFAC show that litter and soil extracts (Douglas-fir needles, wood of decomposition Class 2, Class 3 and Class 5, O-horizon, and 0–5 cm A-horizon) each have distinct fluorescence signatures. However, while litter-leached DOC chemistry varies by litter type, neither lysimeter-collected DOC or soil extracts in the DIRT plots show statistically significant differences in fluorescence signatures among treatments, even after 17 years of litter manipulations. The lack of observed differences among DIRT treatments suggests that both abiotic interactions and microbial activity effectively homogenize organic carbon constituents within the dissolved pool. Minor but observable changes in PARAFAC components and optical indices during a 1-month biodegradation incubation of litter and soil extracts indicate that while biodegradation significantly alters DOC chemistry, abiotic mechanisms are also critical to DOC transformation in these soils with high sorption capacity.


Although leachates from different plant detrital sources have distinct carbon chemical signatures, these DOC signatures are effectively homogenized after passage through mineral soil. These results highlight the dominant role of both biotic and abiotic interactions in controlling the chemistry of DOC in shallow soils.


Dissolved organic carbon Soil organic matter Biodegradation Fluorescence PARAFAC 



Dissolved Organic Carbon




Soil Organic Carbon


Parallel Factor Analysis


Detrital Input and Removal Treatment


Biodegradable Dissolved Organic Carbon


Specific UV Absorbance


Excitation-Emission Matrix


Redox Index


Fluorescence Index


Freshness Index


Principal Component Analysis



Funding was provided by NSF (NSF DEB – 1257032 to K. Lajtha). UV and fluorescence analyses were run in Angelicque E. White’s lab at Oregon State University with aid from Ms. Katie Watkins-Brandt. Thanks to Kim Townsend and the Lajtha lab crew for help with field collections. Lastly, thank you to our anonymous reviewers for providing exceptional feedback during the manuscript review process.

Supplementary material

11104_2016_2914_MOESM1_ESM.docx (24 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 23 kb)


  1. Bengtson P, Bengtsson G (2007) Rapid turnover of DOC in temperate forests accounts for increased CO2 production at elevated temperatures. Ecol Lett 10:783–790CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Berg B, Hannus K, Popoff T, Theander O (1982) Changes in organic chemical components of needle litter during decomposition. Long-term decomposition in a scots pine forest. I. Can J Bot 60:1310–1319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brant JB, Sulzman EW, Myrold DD (2006) Microbial community utilization of added carbon substrates in response to long-term carbon input manipulation. Soil Biol Biochem 38:2219–2232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cawley KM, Campbell J, Zwilling M, Jaffé R (2014) Evaluation of forest disturbance legacy effects on dissolved organic matter characteristics in streams at the Hubbard brook experimental Forest, New Hampshire. Aquat Sci 76:611–622CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cole JJ, Prairie YT, Caraco NF, McDowell WH, Tranvik LJ, Striegl RG, Duarte CM, Kortelainen P, Downing JA, Middelburg JJ, Melack J (2007) Plumbing the global carbon cycle: integrating inland waters into the terrestrial carbon budget. Ecosystems 10:172–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cory RM, Mcknight DM (2005) Fluorescence spectroscopy reveals ubiquitous presence of oxidized and reduced Quinones in dissolved organic matter. Environ Sci Technol 39:8142–8149CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Cory RM, Miller MP, Mcknight DM, Guerard JJ, Miller PL (2010) Effect of instrument-specific response on the analysis of fulvic acid fluorescence spectra. Limnol Oceanogr Methods:67–78Google Scholar
  8. Deb SK, Shukla MK (2011) A review of dissolved organic matter transport processes affecting soil and environmental quality. J Environ Anal Toxicol 1:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dixon J (2003) Applying GIS to soil-geomorphic landscape mapping in the Lookout Creek valley, western cascades. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, Oregon. M.S. ThesisGoogle Scholar
  10. Fellman JB, D’Amore DV, Hood E, Boone RD (2008) Fluorescence characteristics and biodegradability of dissolved organic matter in forest and wetland soils from coastal temperate watersheds in Southeast Alaska. Biogeochemistry 88:169–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fellman JB, Hood E, Spencer GM (2010) Fluorescence spectroscopy opens new windows into dissolved organic matter dynamics in freshwater ecosystems: a review. Limnol Oceanogr 55:2452–2462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fröberg M, Berggren D, Bergkvist B, Bryant C, Knicker H (2003) Contributions of oi, Oe and Oa horizons to dissolved organic matter in forest floor leachates. Geoderma 113:311–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fröberg M, Kleja DB, Bergkvist B, Tipping E, Mulder J (2005) Dissolved organic carbon leaching from a coniferous forest floor – a field manipulation experiment. Biogeochemistry 75:271–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fröberg M, Kleja DB, Hagedorn F (2007) The contribution of fresh litter to dissolved organic carbon leached from a coniferous forest floor. Eur J Soil Sci 58:108–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gabor RS, Eilers K, McKnight DM, Fierer N, Anderson SP (2014) From the litter layer to the saprolite: chemical changes in water-soluble soil organic matter and their correlation to microbial community composition. Soil Biol Biochem 68:166–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gielen B, Neirynck J, Luyssaert S, Janssens IA (2011) The importance of dissolved organic carbon fluxes for the carbon balance of a temperate scots pine forest. Agric For Meteorol 151:270–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Giesler R, Högberg MN, Strobel BW, Richter A, Nordgren A, Högberg P (2007) Production of dissolved organic carbon and low-molecular weight organic acids in soil solution driven by recent tree photosynthate. Biogeochemistry 84:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hagedorn F, Bruderhofer N, Ferrari A, Niklaus PA (2015) Tracking litter-derived dissolved organic matter along a soil chronosequence using 14C imaging biodegradation, physico-chemical retention or preferential flow? Soil Biol Biochem 88:333–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hongve D, Van Hees PAW, Lundstrom US (2000) Dissolved components in precipitation water percolated through forest litter. Eur J Soil Sci 51:667–667CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hothorn T, Bretz F, Westfall P (2008) Simultaneous inference in general parametric models. Biom J 50:346–363CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Kalbitz K, Schmerwitz J, Schwesig D, Matzner E (2003) Biodegradation of soil-derived dissolved organic matter as related to its properties. Geoderma 113:273–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kalbitz K, Meyer A, Yang R, Gerstberger P (2007) Response of dissolved organic matter in the forest floor to long-term manipulation of litter and throughfall inputs. Biogeochemistry 86:301–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kindler R, Siemens J, Kaiser K, Walmsley DC, Bernhofer C, Buchmann N, Cellier P, Eugster W, Gleixner G, Grünwald T, Heim A, Ibrom A, Jones SK, Jones M, Klumpp K, Kutsch W, Larsen KS, Lehuger S, Loubet B, McKenzie R, Moors E, Osborne B, Pilegaard K, Rebmann C, Saunders M, Schmidt MWI, Schrumpf M, Seyfferth J, Skiba U, Soussana J-F, Sutton MA, Tefs C, Vowinckel B, Zeeman MJ, Kaupenjohann M (2011) Dissolved carbon leaching from soil is a crucial component of the net ecosystem carbon balance. Glob Chang Biol 17:1167–1185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kirchner J (2003) A double paradox in catchment hydrology and geochemistry. Hydrol Process 17:871–874CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kramer MG, Sanderman J, Chadwick OA, Chorover J, Vitousek PM (2012) Long-term carbon storage through retention of dissolved aromatic acids by reactive particles in soil. Glob Chang Biol 18:2594–2605CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lajtha K, Crow SE, Yano Y, Kaushal SS, Sulzman E, Sollins P, Spears JDH (2005) Detrital controls on soil solution N and dissolved organic matter in soils: a field experiment. Biogeochemistry 76:261–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lajtha K, Townsend KL, Kramer MG, Swanston C, Bowden RD, Nadelhoffer K (2014) Changes to particulate versus mineral-associated soil carbon after 50 years of litter manipulation in forest and prairie experimental ecosystems. Biogeochemistry 119:341–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McKnight DM, Boyer EW, Westerhoff PK, Doran PT, Kulbe T, Andersen DT (2001) Spectrofluorometric characterization of dissolved organic matter for indication of precursor organic material and aromaticity. Limnol Oceanogr 46:38–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Miller MP, McKnight DM, Cory RM, Williams MW, Runkel RL (2006) Hyporheic exchange and fulvic acid redox reactions in an alpine stream / wetland ecosystem, Colorado Front Range. Enivron Sci Technol 40:5943–5949Google Scholar
  30. Nishimura S, Maie N, Baba M, Sudo T, Sugiura T, Shima E (2012) Changes in the quality of chromophoric dissolved organic matter leached from senescent leaf litter during the early decomposition. J Environ Qual 41:823–833CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Parlanti E, Wo K, Geo L, Lamotte M (2000) Dissolved organic matter fluorescence spectroscopy as a tool to estimate biological activity in a coastal zone submitted to anthropogenic inputs. Org Geochem 31:765–1781CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pinheiro J, Bates D, DebRoy S, Sarkar D, R Core Team (2015) nlme: linear and nonlinear mixed effects models. R package version 3:1–121Google Scholar
  33. Qualls RG (2000) Comparison of the behavior of soluble organic and inorganic nutrients in forest soils. For Ecol Manag 138:29–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Qualls RG, Haines BL (1992) Biodegradability of dissolved organic matter in forest throughfall, soil solution, and stream water. Soil Sci Soc Am J 56:578–586CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. R Core Team (2013) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. URL
  36. Sanderman J, Kramer M (2013) Differential production yet chemical similarity of dissolved organic matter across a chronosequence with contrasting nutrient availability in Hawaii. Biogeochemistry 113:259–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sanderman J, Baldock JA, Amundson R (2008) Dissolved organic carbon chemistry and dynamics in contrasting forest and grassland soils. Biogeochemistry 89:181–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sanderman J, Lohse KA, Baldock JA, Amundson R (2009) Linking soils and streams: sources and chemistry of dissolved organic matter in a small coastal watershed. Water Resour Res 45:1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Scheibe A, Gleixner G (2014) Influence of litter diversity on dissolved organic matter release and soil carbon formation in a mixed beech forest. PLoS One 9(12):e114040CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  40. Sollins P (1982) Input and decay of coarse woody debris in coniferous stands in western Oregon and Washington. Can J For Res 12:18–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Thevenot M, Dignac M-F, Rumpel C (2010) Fate of lignins in soils: a review. Soil Biol Biochem 42:1200–1211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Toosi ER, Schmidt JP, Castellano MJ (2014) Land use and hydrologic flowpaths interact to affect dissolved organic matter and nitrate dynamics. Biogeochemistry 120:89–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. van Hees PAW, Jones DL, Finlay R, Godbold DL, Lundström US (2005) The carbon we do not see—the impact of low molecular weight compounds on carbon dynamics and respiration in forest soils: a review. Soil Biol Biochem 37:1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Weiler M, McDonnell JJ (2007) Conceptualizing lateral flow and flow networks and simulating the effects on gauged and ungauged hillslopes. Water Resour Res 43:W03403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Weishaar JL, Aiken GR, Bergamaschi BA, Fram MS, Fujii R, Mopper K (2003) Evaluation of specific ultraviolet absorbance as an indicator of the chemical composition and reactivity of dissolved organic carbon. Environ Sci Technol 37:4702–4708CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Williams CJ, Yamashita Y, Wilson HF, Jaffé R, Xenopoulos MA (2010) Unraveling the role of land use and microbial activity in shaping dissolved organic matter characteristics in stream ecosystems. Limnol Oceanogr 55:1159–1171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wilson HF, Xenopoulos MA (2009) Effects of agricultural land use on the composition of fluvial dissolved organic matter. Nat Geosci 2:37–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Yano Y, Mcdowell WH, Aber JD (2000) Biodegradable dissolved organic carbon in forest soil solution and effects of chronic nitrogen deposition. Soil Biol Biochem 32:1743–1751CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Yano Y, Lajtha K, Sollins P, Caldwell BA (2005) Chemistry and dynamics of dissolved organic matter in a temperate coniferous forest on andic soils: effects of litter quality. Ecosystems 8:286–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Yarwood S, Brewer E, Yarwood R, Lajtha K, Myrold D (2013) Soil microbe active community composition and capability of responding to litter addition after 12 years of no inputs. Appl Environ Microbiol 79:1385–1392CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

Personalised recommendations