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  1. Abstract

    Many streams originate in forested watersheds at risk of wildfires. Wildfires can introduce thermally altered organic compounds to terrestrial and aquatic systems. Understanding the degradation of leachates from these burned organic materials, referred to as dissolved pyrogenic organic material (PyDOM), is critical in determining water quality impacts in forested watersheds. This study used fluorescence spectroscopy to examine photochemical alterations of PyDOM generated by leaching organic matter burned at various temperatures. The PyDOM was exposed to natural sunlight for 25 days and the photochemical formation of hydrogen peroxide was monitored. PyDOM was characterized using ultraviolet–visible absorption, excitation–emission matrix (EEM) fluorescence spectroscopy, and fluorescence indices. Throughout the experiment, the emission intensity of the humic peak for all light-exposed leachates decreased while dark leachates exhibited no significant change in their fluorescence spectra. Additionally, hydrogen peroxide concentrations and UV absorbance decreased progressively over time, providing direct evidence that PyDOM concentrations can be significantly reduced by photodegradation. A characteristically low emission peak was observed in the EEMs of the fresh PyDOM, which could help in detecting fresh PyDOM. These results demonstrate that PyDOM derived from burned leachates is susceptible to photodegradation and that fluorescence measurements could be used as proxies for detecting PyDOM immediately post-wildfire.

  2. Mineral stabilization of soil organic matter is an important regulator of the global carbon (C) cycle. However, the vulnerability of mineral-stabilized organic matter (OM) to climate change is currently unknown. We examined soil profiles from 34 sites across the conterminous USA to investigate how the abundance and persistence of mineral-associated organic C varied with climate at the continental scale. Using a novel combination of radiocarbon and molecular composition measurements, we show that the relationship between the abundance and persistence of mineral-associated organic matter (MAOM) appears to be driven by moisture availability. In wetter climates where precipitation exceeds evapotranspiration, excess moisture leads to deeper and more prolonged periods of wetness, creating conditions which favor greater root abundance and also allow for greater diffusion and interaction of inputs with MAOM. In these humid soils, mineral-associated soil organic C concentration and persistence are strongly linked, whereas this relationship is absent in drier climates. In arid soils, root abundance is lower, and interaction of inputs with mineral surfaces is limited by shallower and briefer periods of moisture, resulting in a disconnect between concentration and persistence. Data suggest a tipping point in the cycling of mineral-associated C at a climate threshold where precipitation equals evaporation.more »As climate patterns shift, our findings emphasize that divergence in the mechanisms of OM persistence associated with historical climate legacies need to be considered in process-based models.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 14, 2024
  3. Abstract

    Soil organic matter (SOM) is the largest terrestrial pool of organic carbon, and potential carbon-climate feedbacks involving SOM decomposition could exacerbate anthropogenic climate change. However, our understanding of the controls on SOM mineralization is still incomplete, and as such, our ability to predict carbon-climate feedbacks is limited. To improve our understanding of controls on SOM decomposition, A and upper B horizon soil samples from 26 National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) sites spanning the conterminous U.S. were incubated for 52 weeks under conditions representing site-specific mean summer temperature and sample-specific field capacity (−33 kPa) water potential. Cumulative carbon dioxide respired was periodically measured and normalized by soil organic C content to calculate cumulative specific respiration (CSR), a metric of SOM vulnerability to mineralization. The Boruta algorithm, a feature selection algorithm, was used to select important predictors of CSR from 159 variables. A diverse suite of predictors was selected (12 for A horizons, 7 for B horizons) with predictors falling into three categories corresponding to SOM chemistry, reactive Fe and Al phases, and site moisture availability. The relationship between SOM chemistry predictors and CSR was complex, while sites that had greater concentrations of reactive Fe and Al phases or were wetter had lowermore »CSR. Only three predictors were selected for both horizon types, suggesting dominant controls on SOM decomposition differ by horizon. Our findings contribute to the emerging consensus that a broad array of controls regulates SOM decomposition at large scales and highlight the need to consider changing controls with depth.

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  6. Abstract

    Macrosystem‐scale research is supported by many ecological networks of people, infrastructure, and data. However, no network is sufficient to address all macrosystems ecology research questions, and there is much to be gained by conducting research and sharing resources across multiple networks. Unfortunately, conducting macrosystem research across networks is challenging due to the diversity of expertise and skills required, as well as issues related to data discoverability, veracity, and interoperability. The ecological and environmental science community could substantially benefit from networking existing networks to leverage past research investments and spur new collaborations. Here, we describe the need for a “network of networks” (NoN) approach to macrosystems ecological research and articulate both the challenges and potential benefits associated with such an effort. We describe the challenges brought by rapid increases in the volume, velocity, and variety of “big data” ecology and highlight how a NoN could build on the successes and creativity within component networks, while also recognizing and improving upon past failures. We argue that a NoN approach requires careful planning to ensure that it is accessible and inclusive, incorporates multimodal communications and ways to interact, supports the creation, testing, and promulgation of community standards, and ensures individuals and groupsmore »receive appropriate credit for their contributions. Additionally, a NoN must recognize important trade‐offs in network architecture, including how the degree of centralization of people, infrastructure, and data influence network scalability and creativity. If implemented carefully and thoughtfully, a NoN has the potential to substantially advance our understanding of ecological processes, characteristics, and trajectories across broad spatial and temporal scales in an efficient, inclusive, and equitable manner.

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