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Sensitive Measures of Soil Health Reveal Carbon Stability Across a Management Intensity and Plant Biodiversity Gradient

  • Martin, Tvisha1, 2, 3
  • Sprunger, Christine D.1, 2
  • 1 School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University, Wooster, OH , (United States)
  • 2 W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University, Hickory Corners, MI , (United States)
  • 3 Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences, East Lansing, MI , (United States)
Published Article
Frontiers in Soil Science
Frontiers Media S.A.
Publication Date
Jul 14, 2022
DOI: 10.3389/fsoil.2022.917885
  • Soil Science
  • Original Research


Soil carbon (C) is a major driver of soil health, yet little is known regarding how sensitive measures of soil C shift temporally within a single growing season in response to short-term weather perturbations. Our study aimed to i) Examine how long-term management impacts soil C cycling and stability across a management intensity and plant biodiversity gradient and ii) Assess how sensitive soil health indicators change temporally over the course of a single growing season in response to recent weather patterns. Here we quantify a variety of sensitive soil C measures at four time points across the 2021 growing season at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station’s Long Term Ecological Research Trial (LTER) located in southwest Michigan, USA. The eight systems sampled included four annual soybean (Glycine max) systems that ranged in management intensity (conventional, no-till, reduced input, and biologically-based), two perennial biofuel cropping systems (switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and hybrid poplars (Populus nigra x P.maximowiczii)), and two unmanaged systems (early successional system and a mown but never tilled grassland). We found that unmanaged systems with increased perenniality enhanced mineralizable C (Min C) and permanganate oxidizable C (POXC) values. Additionally, all soil health indicators were found to be sensitive to changes in short-term weather perturbations over the course of the growing season. The implications of this study are threefold. First, this study assess indicators of labile and stable C pools over the course of the growing season and reflects the stability of soil C in different systems. Second, POXC, Min C, and ß-glucosidase (GLU) activity are sensitive soil health indicators that fluctuate temporally, which means that these soil health indicators could help elucidate the impact that weather patterns have on soil C dynamics. Lastly, for effective monitoring of soil C, sampling time and frequency should be considered for a comprehensive understanding of soil C cycling within a system.

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