Modelling low molecular weight organic acid dynamics in forest soils

Patrick A.W. Van Hees, David L. Jones, Lars Nyberg, Sara J.M. Holmström, Douglas L. Godbold, Ulla S. Lundström

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52 Citations (Scopus)


Low molecular weight organic acids such as citrate and oxalate have been hypothesized to play a key role in rhizosphere ecology and pedogenesis. A mathematical site-specific model, DYNLOW, was constructed to describe the temporal and spatial dynamics of these organic acids in coniferous forest soils using the modelling software STELLA®. Experimentally derived values for biodegradation, adsorption, and daily values of soil temperature, moisture and hydrological flow were used to parameterize the model. The model describes the dynamics and downward movement of oxalate and citrate through the horizons (O, AE, E, Bhs, Bs) of three podzolic soil profiles in Sweden. After calibration, the model predicted average soil solution organic acid concentrations ranging from <1 to 90 μM, which was in agreement with experimental measurements (<1 to 116 μM). The model results indicated that microbial degradation of organic acids was in quantitative terms the biggest process regulating soil solution concentrations. Primary production rates of organic acid in the soil were predicted to be high (<1 to 1250 nmol g -1 soil d -1) in comparison to the amount present at steady state in the soil solution pool (<0.1 to 240 nmol g -1 soil). The downward transfer of organic acids between soil horizons due to mass flow was predicted to be a small flux (<0.1 to 3% of the total loss) compared to that lost by microbial biodegradation. The model predicted that the amount of basal soil respiration that could be attributable to the microbial turnover of organic acids was on average 19±22% of the basal CO 2 production across all sites and horizons for citrate and 7±7% for oxalate. The model results are discussed in the context of pedogenesis, forest soil respiration and organic matter production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)517-531
Number of pages15
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2005
Externally publishedYes


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