American Chemical Society
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Implications of Free and Occluded Fine Colloids for Organic Matter Preservation in Arable Soils

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-09-15, 18:12 authored by Ni Tang, Nina Siebers, Peter Leinweber, Kai-Uwe Eckhardt, Stefan Dultz, Volker Nischwitz, Erwin Klumpp
Colloidal organo–mineral associations contribute to soil organic matter (OM) preservation and mainly occur in two forms: (i) as water-dispersible colloids that are potentially mobile (free colloids) and (ii) as building units of soil microaggregates that are occluded inside them (occluded colloids). However, the way in which these two colloidal forms differ in terms of textural characteristics and chemical composition, together with the nature of their associated OM, remains unknown. To fill these knowledge gaps, free and occluded fine colloids <220 nm were isolated from arable soils with comparable organic carbon (Corg) but different clay contents. Free colloids were dispersed in water suspensions during wet-sieving, while occluded colloids were released from water-stable aggregates by sonication. The asymmetric flow field-flow fractionation analysis on the free and occluded colloids suggested that most of the 0.6–220 nm fine colloidal Corg was present in size fractions that showed high abundances of Si, Al, and Fe. The pyrolysis-field ionization mass spectrometry revealed that the free colloids were relatively rich in less decomposed plant-derived OM (i.e., lipids, suberin, and free fatty acids), whereas the occluded colloids generally contained more decomposed and microbial-derived OM (i.e., carbohydrates and amides). In addition, a higher thermal stability of OM in occluded colloids pointed to a higher resistance to further degradation and mineralization of OM in occluded colloids than that in free colloids. This study provides new insights into the characteristics of subsized fractions of fine colloidal organo–mineral associations in soils and explores the impacts of free versus occluded colloidal forms on the composition and stability of colloid-associated OM.