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Monitoring organic matter dynamics in soil profiles by Rock-Eval pyrolysis : bulk characterization and quantification of degradation
European Journal of Soil Science
Rock-Eval pyrolysis was designed for petroleum exploration to determine the type and quality of organic matter in rock samples. Nevertheless, this technique can be used for bulk characterization of the immature organic matter in soil samples and recent sediments. We studied 76 samples from seven soil classes and showed that their pyrograms can be described by a combination of four elementary Gaussian components: F1, F2, F3 and F4. These four components are related to major classes of organic constituents differing in origin and their resistance to pyrolysis: labile biological constituents (F1), resistant biological constituents (F2), immature non-biotic constituents (F3) and a mature refractory fraction (F4). We discriminated the relative contributions of these components and used them to derive two indices: (i) to quantify the relative contributions of labile and resistant biological constituents and (ii) to quantify the degradation stage of the soil organic matter. The practical applications are illustrated via the influence of vegetal cover on soil organic matter dynamics and peat development in a Holocene sedimentary sequence, but we suggest that the approach is of much wider application.
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