Key drivers of pyrogenic carbon redistribution during a simulated rainfall event

Bellè, Severin-Luca; Berhe, Asmeret Asefaw; Hagedorn, Frank; Santin, Cristina; Schiedung, Marcus; van Meerveld, Ilja; Abiven, Samuel

Pyrogenic carbon (PyC) is produced by the incomplete combustion of vegetation during wildfires and is a major and persistent pool of the global carbon (C) cycle. However, its redistribution in the landscape after fires remains largely unknown. Therefore, we conducted rainfall simulation experiments on 0.25 minline-formula2 plots with two distinct Swiss forest soils (Cambisol (clay loam) and Luvisol (sandy silt)). We applied PyC produced from wood (Picea abies) labeled under FACE conditions and Cinline-formula4 grass (Miscanthus sinensis) to the soil surface to study PyC redistribution by runoff and splash and the vertical mobility of PyC in a 10 cm unsaturated soil column based on the differences in inline-formulaδ13C of soils and PyC. We assessed the effect of soil texture, slope angle and PyC characteristics (feedstock and particle size) on the mobility of PyC during 30 min of intense rainfall (102 mm hinline-formula−1). Our results highlight that PyC is highly mobile. Surface runoff transported between 0.2 % and 36.0 % of the total added PyC. Erosion by splash further redistributed 10.3 % to 25.3 % of the added PyC. Soil type had a substantial impact on the redistribution of PyC by both runoff and splash: on average, we recovered 10.5 % of the added PyC in runoff and splashed material for the clay-rich Cambisol and 61.3 % of the added PyC for the sandy silt Luvisol combined. PyC feedstock had a clear but contrasting effect on PyC redistribution: relocation in the runoff and splashed material was greater for wood PyC (43.4 % of total added PyC) than grass PyC (28.4 %). However, more wood PyC (11.5 %; fraction of organic C derived from the PyC) remained where it was initially applied compared to grass PyC (7.4 %). The results further suggest that the effect of PyC characteristics on its mobility can be highly variable and depend not only on the material from which it was derived, but also on other factors (e.g., particle size, porosity, density). In particular, the mobility of PyC was almost twice as large for fine-grained PyC (inline-formula< 63 inline-formulaµm) than for coarse PyC (63 inline-formulaµm–2 mm). Vertical mobility of PyC up to 10 cm depth was greater in the clay-rich, well-aggregated Cambisol but limited in the physically instable Luvisol, likely due to quick aggregate breakdown and surface sealing. The addition of PyC to the surface of the studied soils further induced changes in the export of native soil organic carbon (nSOC) after the 30 min rainfall event. Our study shows that large quantities of PyC can be redistributed by water erosion over short timescales and that the mobility of PyC depends to a great extent on the response of soils to rainfall. Moreover, the addition and redistributionpage1106 of PyC affects the export of nSOC and thus the C budget of fire-affected soils and catchments.

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Bellè, Severin-Luca / Berhe, Asmeret Asefaw / Hagedorn, Frank / et al: Key drivers of pyrogenic carbon redistribution during a simulated rainfall event. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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