Lithology- and climate-controlled soil aggregate-size distribution and organic carbon stability in the Peruvian Andes
Abstract. Recent studies indicate that climate change influences soil mineralogy by altering weathering processes and thus impacts soil aggregation and organic carbon (SOC) stability. Alpine ecosystems of the Neotropical Andes are characterized by high SOC stocks, which are important for sustaining ecosystem services. However, climate change in the form of altered precipitation patterns can potentially affect soil aggregation and SOC stability with potentially significant effects on the soil's
... cosystem services. This study aimed to investigate the effects of precipitation and lithology on soil aggregation and SOC stability in the Peruvian Andean grasslands, and it assessed whether occlusion of organic matter (OM) in aggregates controls SOC stability. For this, samples were collected from soils on limestone and soils on acid igneous rocks from two sites with contrasting precipitation levels. We used a dry-sieving method to quantify aggregate-size distribution and applied a 76 d soil incubation with intact and crushed aggregates to investigate SOC stability's dependence on aggregation. SOC stocks ranged from 153±27 to 405±42 Mg ha−1, and the highest stocks were found in the limestone soils of the wet site. We found lithology rather than precipitation to be the key factor regulating soil aggregate-size distribution, as indicated by coarse aggregates in the limestone soils and fine aggregates in the acid igneous rock soils. SOC stability estimated by specific SOC mineralization rates decreased with precipitation in the limestone soils, but only minor differences were found between wet and dry sites in the acid igneous rock soils. Aggregate destruction had a limited effect on SOC mineralization, which indicates that occlusion of OM in aggregates played a minor role in OM stabilization. This was further supported by the inconsistent patterns of aggregate-size distribution compared to the patterns of SOC stability. We propose that OM adsorption on mineral surfaces is the main OM stabilization mechanism controlling SOC stocks and stability. The results highlight the interactions between precipitation and lithology on SOC stability, which are likely controlled by soil mineralogy in relation to OM input.