Loss of low molecular weight dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nitrogen (DON) in H2O and 0.5M K2SO4 soil extracts

Johannes Rousk, Davey L. Jones

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81 Citations (Scopus)


Soil extracts are routinely used to quantify dissolved organic nutrient concentrations in soil. Here we studied the loss and transformation of low molecular weight (LMW) components of DOC (14C-glucose, 1 and 100μM) and DON (14C-amino acid mixture, 1 and 100μM) during extraction of soil (0-6h) with either distilled water or 0.5M K2SO4. The extractions were performed at 20°C, at 4°C, or in the presence of an inhibitor of microbial activity (HgCl2 and Na-azide). We showed that both glucose and amino acids became progressively lost from solution with increasing shaking time. The greatest loss was observed in H2O extracts at 1μM for both substances (>90% loss after 15min). Lower temperature (4°C) and presence of K2SO4 both resulted in reduced loss rates. The presence of microbial inhibitors effectively eliminated the loss of glucose and amino acids. We conclude that microbial transformation of LMW-DOC and DON during H2O or K2SO4 extraction of soil may affect the estimation of their concentrations in soil. This finding has significant implications for methods that rely on chemical extractions to estimate LMW-C components of DOC and DON.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2331-2335
Number of pages5
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


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