Background. Labile carbon input could stimulate soil organic carbon (SOC) mineralization through priming effect, resulting in soil carbon (C) loss. Meanwhile, labile C could also be transformed by microorganisms in soil as the processes of new C sequestration and stabilization. Previous studies showed the magnitude of priming effect could be affected by soil depth and nitrogen (N). However, it remains unknown how the soil depth and N availability affect the amount and stability of the new sequestrated C, which complicates the prediction of C dynamics.
Methods. A 20-day incubation experiment was conducted by adding C-13 labeled glucose and NH4NO3 to study the effects of soil depth and nitrogen addition on the net C sequestration. SOC was fractioned into seven fractions and grouped into three functional C pools to assess the stabilization of the new sequestrated C.
Results. Our results showed that glucose addition caused positive priming in both soil depths, and N addition significantly reduced the priming effect. After 20 days of incubation, deep soil had a higher C sequestration potential (48% glucose-C) than surface soil (43% glucose-C). The C sequestration potential was not affected by N addition in both soil depths. Positive net C sequestration was observed with higher amount of retained glucose-C than that of stimulated mineralized SOC for both soil depths. The distribution of new sequestrated C in the seven fractions was significantly affected by soil depth, but not N addition. Compared to deep soil, the new C in surface soil was more distributed in the non-protected C pool (including water extracted organic C, light fraction and sand fraction) and less distributed in the clay fraction. These results suggested that the new C in deep soil was more stable than that in surface soil. Compared to the native SOC for both soil depths, the new sequestrated C was more distributed in non-protected C pool and less distributed in biochemically protected C pool (non-hydrolyzable silt and clay fractions). The higher carbon sequestration potential and stability in deep soil suggested that deep soil has a greater role on C sequestration in forest ecosystems.