Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lignin degradation in soil followed by stable carbon isotope analysis.

Haithem Bahri, cornelia Rumpel, marie-france Dignac, daniel rasse, and andré Mariotti. BioEMCo, Bldg EGER, Thiverval-Grignon, 78850, France

Lignin is a major plant litter compound. Due to its aromatic structure it is not easily decomposable by the soil microbial biomass and has for a long-time been considered to accumulate in soil. A recent study, however, indicated that lignin has a faster turnover than the bulk soil organic matter, suggesting that there is no long-term storage of the pristine lignin molecule in soil. Using a modelling approach we were able to show that more than 90 % of lignin deposited on the soil surface is transformed into non-lignin products. The aim of this study was to elucidate the forms of lignin derived carbon during a longterm laboratory incubation of 13C labelled lignin in soil. The conceptual approach included the extraction of lignin from a 13C labelled maize plant and its incubation under ideal conditions for 11 months. Our results show that the non-lignin products are mostly CO2, with few incorporation of lignin-derived carbon into the soil microbial biomass. We were able to detect a priming effect of soil organic matter induced by lignin addition. Analysis of the mineralisation kinetics suggested that the 13C labelled isolated lignin consisted of two compartments with different decomposition rates. One of the two compartments might be related to the presence of cellulose within the isolated lignin, which has been detected using 13C CPMAS NMR spectroscopy. Molecular analysis of lignin using chemolytical methods showed that lignin becomes more accessible to chemical attack in the course of incubation. Higher yields of lignin monomers were obtained after 4 month using cupric oxide oxidation as well as thioacidolysis. These results indicate that lignin degradation in soil can hardly be separated from cellulose decomposition.