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Bridging 20 years of soil organic matter frameworks: empirical support, model representation, and next steps
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  • Katherine Rocci,
  • M.Francesca Cotrufo,
  • Jessica Ernakovitch,
  • Erika Foster,
  • Serita Frey,
  • Katerina Georgiou,
  • stuart grandy,
  • Avni Malhotra,
  • Peter Reich,
  • Else Schlerman,
  • William R Wieder
Katherine Rocci
University of Colorado Boulder

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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M.Francesca Cotrufo
Colorado State University
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Jessica Ernakovitch
University of New Hampshire
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Erika Foster
Point Blue Conservation Science
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Serita Frey
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Katerina Georgiou
Lawrence Livermore National Lab
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stuart grandy
University of New Hampshire
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Avni Malhotra
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
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Peter Reich
University of Michigan
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Else Schlerman
University of New Hampshire
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William R Wieder
National Center for Atmospheric Research
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In the past few decades, there has been an evolution in our understanding of soil organic matter (SOM) dynamics from one of inherent biochemical recalcitrance to one deriving from plant-microbe-mineral interactions. This shift in understanding has been driven, in part, by influential conceptual frameworks which put forth hypotheses about SOM dynamics. Here, we summarize several focal conceptual frameworks and derive from them six controls related to SOM formation, (de)stabilization, and loss. These include: (1) physical inaccessibility; (2) mineral stabilization; (3) abiotic environmental limitation; (4) biochemical reactivity and diversity; (5) biodegradability of plant inputs; and (6) microbial properties. We then review the empirical evidence for these controls, their model representation, and outstanding knowledge gaps. We find relatively strong empirical support and model representation of abiotic environmental limitation but disparities between data and models for biochemical reactivity and diversity, mineral stabilization, and biodegradability of plant inputs, particularly with respect to SOM destabilization for the latter two controls. More empirical research on physical inaccessibility and microbial properties is needed to deepen our understanding of these critical SOM controls and improve their model representation. The SOM controls are highly interactive and also present some inconsistencies which may be reconciled by considering methodological limitations or temporal and spatial variation. Future conceptual frameworks must simultaneously refine our understanding of these six SOM controls at various spatial and temporal scales and within a hierarchical structure, while incorporating emerging insights. This will advance our ability to accurately predict SOM dynamics.
13 Dec 2023Submitted to ESS Open Archive
18 Dec 2023Published in ESS Open Archive