Carbon accrual in the Atacama Desert

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Title:Main Title: Carbon accrual in the Atacama Desert
Description:Abstract: The Atacama Desert is the oldest and driest desert on Earth, nevertheless traces of life have been observed in several places, accumulating residues of organic matter (OM) in the desert soil. We evaluated to which degree the distribution of soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks depends on aridity. We questioned that these OM traces of life preferentially accumulate in topsoil and investigated whether there was also an enrichment of OM in deeper subsoil. We sampled four west-east directed transects with increasing distance to the coast, spanning the Atacama Desert from north to south, plus a hyperarid site at Yungay in the centre of the desert. With a nested sampling design we addressed topsoil heterogeneity at each sampling site (n≤18). For 12 of these sites soil profiles were dug to 0.6–2.0m depth. The SOC concentrations were determined for each sample by temperaturedependent differentiation of total carbon. We found that with increasing distance to the coast (2.3 to 86.8 km) and thus aridity, SOC stocks decreased from 53.91 ± 53.90 to 4.11 ± 1.46 t SOC ha−1 in the topsoil. Hence, traces of life were ubiquitously preserved in both, arid and hyperarid desert areas, whereas a local hyperarid minimum of 1.02 ± 0.18 t SOC ha−1 at 49.2 km distance, right in between the Andes and the coast, was found. Intriguingly, relatively large amounts of OM were found at depth below 15 cm, adding 74.0 to 94.3 % of subsoil SOC to the topsoil SOC stock. Furthermore, the subsoil SOC concentrations peaked between 40 and 150 cm depth in the soil, irrespectively of the presence or absence of visible vegetation. We conclude that carbon accrual in this arid to hyperarid system shifts from preferential carbon enrichment in topsoil to subsoil, therewith providing the potential for deep(er) biosphere food-webs and demonstrating the future need to dig into soil for discovering traces of life in comparable environments, including other planets such as Mars.
Identifier:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2019.102993 (DOI)
Responsible Party
Creators:Ramona Mörchen (Author), Eva Lehndorff (Author), Franko Arenas-Díaz (Author), Ghazal Moradi (Author), Roland Bol (Author), Barbara Fuentes (Author), Erwin Klumpp (Author), Wulf Amelung (Author)
Publisher:[Elsevier Science, Amsterdam, The Netherlands]
Publication Year:2019
CRC1211 Topic:Biology
Related Subproject:B5
Subject:Keyword: Biogeochemistry of Soils
File Details
Data Type:Data Paper - Article
File Size:2.8 MB
Date:Available: 24.07.2017
Mime Type:application/pdf
Download Permission:Only Project Members
General Access and Use Conditions:According to the CRC1211DB data policy agreement.
Access Limitations:According to the CRC1211DB data policy agreement.
Specific Information - Publication
Publication Status:Published
Review Status:Not peer reviewed
Publication Type:Article
Article Type:Journal
Source:Global and Planetary Change
Number of Pages:9 (1 - 9)
Metadata Details
Metadata Creator:Ramona Mörchen
Metadata Created:14.08.2019
Metadata Last Updated:14.08.2019
Funding Phase:1
Metadata Language:English
Metadata Version:V50
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