Received: 28 Apr 2015 – Discussion started: 03 Jun 2015
Abstract. Nitrogen is one of the most important ecosystem nutrients and often its availability limits net primary production as well as stabilization of soil organic matter. The long-term storage of nitrogen-containing organic matter in soils was classically attributed to chemical complexity of plant and microbial residues that retarded microbial degradation. Recent advances have revised this framework, with the understanding that persistent soil organic matter consists largely of chemically labile, microbially processed organic compounds. Chemical bonding to minerals and physical protection in aggregates are more important to long-term (i.e., centuries to millennia) preservation of these organic compounds that contain the bulk of soil nitrogen rather than molecular complexity, with the exception of nitrogen in pyrogenic organic matter. This review examines the factors and mechanisms that influence the long-term sequestration of organic nitrogen in mineral soils. It examines the policy and management implications which stem from this newly accepted paradigm, such as critical loads considerations and nitrogen saturation and mitigation consequences. Finally, it emphasizes how essential it is for this important but underappreciated pool to be better quantified and incorporated into policy and management decisions.
How to cite. Bingham, A. H. and Cotrufo, M. F.: Organic nitrogen storage in mineral soil: implications for policy and management, SOIL Discuss., 2, 587–618, https://doi.org/10.5194/soild-2-587-2015, 2015.