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Soil Organic Matter Characterization by Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometry (FTICR MS): A Critical Review of Sample Preparation, Analysis, and Data Interpretation

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journal contribution
posted on 07.07.2021, 14:04 by William Bahureksa, Malak M. Tfaily, Rene M. Boiteau, Robert B. Young, Merritt N. Logan, Amy M. McKenna, Thomas Borch
The biogeochemical cycling of soil organic matter (SOM) plays a central role in regulating soil health, water quality, carbon storage, and greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, many studies have been conducted to reveal how anthropogenic and climate variables affect carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling. Among the analytical techniques used to better understand the speciation and transformation of SOM, Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FTICR MS) is the only technique that has sufficient mass resolving power to separate and accurately assign elemental compositions to individual SOM molecules. The global increase in the application of FTICR MS to address SOM complexity has highlighted the many challenges and opportunities associated with SOM sample preparation, FTICR MS analysis, and mass spectral interpretation. Here, we provide a critical review of recent strategies for SOM characterization by FTICR MS with emphasis on SOM sample collection, preparation, analysis, and data interpretation. Data processing and visualization methods are presented with suggested workflows that detail the considerations needed for the application of molecular information derived from FTICR MS. Finally, we highlight current research gaps, biases, and future directions needed to improve our understanding of organic matter chemistry and cycling within terrestrial ecosystems.

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