Detection of active oxalate-carbonate pathway ecosystems in the Amazon Basin: Global implications of a natural potential C sink


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Detection of active oxalate-carbonate pathway ecosystems in the Amazon Basin: Global implications of a natural potential C sink
Cailleau G., Mota M., Bindschedler S., Junier P., Verrecchia E.P.
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The oxalate-carbonate pathway (OCP) is a biogeochemical process, which has been described in Milicia excelsa tree ecosystems of Africa. This pathway involves biological and geological parameters at different scales: oxalate, as a by-product of photosynthesis, is oxidized by oxalotrophic bacteria leading to a local pH increase, and eventually to carbonate accumulation through time in previously acidic and carbonate-free tropical soils. Former studies have shown that this pedogenic process can potentially lead to the formation of an atmospheric carbon sink. Considering that 80% of plant species are known to produce oxalate, it is reasonable to assume that M. excelsa is not the only tree that can support OCP ecosystems.
The search for similar conditions on another continent led us to South America, in an Amazon forest ecosystem (Alto Beni, Bolivia). This area was chosen because of the absence of local inherited carbonate in the bedrock, as well as its expected acidic soil conditions. Eleven tree species and associated soils were tested positive for the presence of carbonate with a more alkaline soil pH close to the tree than at a distance from it. A detailed study of Pentaplaris davidsmithii and Ceiba speciosa trees showed that oxalotrophy impacted soil pH in a similar way to at African sites (at least with 1 pH unit increasing). African and South American sites display similar characteristics regarding the mineralogical assemblage associated with the OCP, except for the absence of weddellite. The amount of carbonate accumulated is 3 to 4 times lower than the values measured in African sites related to M. excelsa ecosystems. Still, these secondary carbonates remain critical for the continental carbon cycle, as they are unexpected in the acidic context of Amazonian soils. Therefore, the present study demonstrates the existence of an active OCP in South America. The three critical components of an operating OCP are the presence of: i) local alkalinization, ii) carbonate accumulations, and iii) oxalotrophic bacteria, which were identified associated to the oxalogenic tree C. speciosa.
If the question of a potential carbon sink related to oxalotrophic-oxalogenic ecosystems in the Amazon Basin is still pending, this study highlights the implication of OCP ecosystems on carbon and calcium biogeochemical coupled cycles. As previously mentioned for M. excelsa tree ecosystems in Africa, carbonate accumulations observed in the Bolivian tropical forest could be extrapolated to part or the whole Amazon Basin and might constitute an important reservoir that must be taken into account in the global carbon balance of the Tropics.
Carbonate accumulations, Oxalate, Biomineral, Cambisol, Bolivia, Amazon Basin
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03/03/2014 10:23
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20/08/2019 14:10
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