EGU2020-22447, updated on 12 Jun 2020
EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Significance and driving forces of dark CO2 fixation for organic carbon inputs in temperate forest soils

Rachael Akinyede1,2, Martin Taubert1, Marion Schrumpf2, Susan Trumbore2, and Kirsten Küsel1
Rachael Akinyede et al.
  • 1Aquatic Geomicrobiology, Institute of Biodiversity, Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, Germany
  • 2Department of Biogeochemical Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany

Soils are the largest terrestrial organic carbon pool and one of the largest terrestrial sources of CO2 in the atmosphere. However, not all CO2 produced in soils is released into the atmosphere, as dark CO2 fixation has been shown to modulate CO2 release from soils. Temperate forest soils store up to half of the soil organic carbon pool to 1m depth and are recognized as important components of the global carbon cycle, yet studies on dark CO2 fixation in temperate forest soils are scarce. Using a well characterized Cambisol soil plot in the Hainich National Park (temperate forest), Germany, we explore dark CO2 fixation with the aim to assess the CO2 fixation rates, the influencing biogeochemical parameters, and the contribution of this process to temperate forest soil organic carbon (SOC).

Dark CO2 fixation was quantified via the uptake of 13C-CO2 added to microcosms containing soils sampled from three depths. Under 2% CO2 headspace, rates of dark CO2 fixation at soil level decreased with depth from 0.86 µg C gdw-1d-1 in 0 - 12 cm to 0.05 µg C gdw-1d-1 in 70 -100 cm, accounting for up to 1.1% of microbial biomass and up to 0.035% of soil organic carbon. However, as differences in microbial biomass abundance and community profiles with depth were found, no significant difference in the rates across depth was observed at microbial level. This suggests that microbial biomass is an important driver of dark CO2 fixation in soils. Given a global temperate forest area of 6.9 million km2 and an average soil bulk density of 1 Mg/m3 dark CO2 fixation will potentially account for the gross sequestration of 0.31 - 0.48 GtC/yr to a depth of 1 m. Furthermore, an increase in headspace CO2 concentration enhanced CO2 fixation rates by up to 3.4-fold under 20% v:v CO2 showing that dark CO2 fixation can be substantial in soils with higher CO2 concentrations.

To validate microbial biomass as a driver of dark CO2 fixation in soils, we made comparisons with soil plots from the Schorfheide-Chorin exploratory forest, Germany, a temperate forest characterized by vegetation-specific bacterial community structure, higher sand content and acidic pH gradients. Under these conditions, CO2 fixation rates at microbial level were significantly different across depth suggesting that aside microbial biomass, other abiotic factors may influence dark CO2 fixation in these soils. Of all the tested abiotic variables, water content was the main explanatory factor for the variations in dark CO2 fixation rates in the Schorfheide-chorin soils. Additionally, based on 16S rRNA sequencing, qPCR and PICRUSt2 analysis, only a few putative autotrophic communities were present and displayed vegetation-specific variations indicating an influence of vegetation type and input on the active community.

Our findings highlight microbial biomass, CO2 and water content as the main drivers of dark CO2 fixation in temperate forest soils with only a small proportion of autotrophs being present, suggesting the potential mediators of this process. We also demonstrate the significance of this process in global temperate forest SOC inputs.



How to cite: Akinyede, R., Taubert, M., Schrumpf, M., Trumbore, S., and Küsel, K.: Significance and driving forces of dark CO2 fixation for organic carbon inputs in temperate forest soils , EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-22447,, 2020


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displays version 1 – uploaded on 04 May 2020
  • CC1: Comment on EGU2020-22447, Elise Pendall, 05 May 2020

    Rachael, very nice poster! I wonder how the CO2 and O2 concentrations in the soils compare with what you used in your lab incubations. Do you have this information? Also, in what way do you think the vegetation type may have affected the dark CO2 fixation by the microbes?  Thanks - Elise

    • AC1: Reply to CC1, Rachael Akinyede, 05 May 2020

      Thank you very much for your comments, Elise.

      1. Unfortunately we did not measure O2 and CO2 concentrations in situ at that time and so we do not know what the concentrations were at the time of sampling. However our choice of 2% was on the basis that this was the highest concentration measured some years ago from the Hainich forest soil (unpublished results) which should not have changed much by now. We decided to do subsequent inculation of other soils with this same concentration so that the results are more comparible. Also for the other subsequent soils, based on the soil texture, we did not expect so much deviations from 2% through the soil profile.

      2. For your second question, what we infer here is an indirect effect of vegetation type on dark CO2 fixation rates through a direct effects on the soil pH and the microbial community as described previously for these soils (Kaiser et al., 2016; DOI: 10.1038/srep33696). So relating vegetation type to CO2 fixation is basically a preliminary approach to understanding the differences in what we measured. Therefore, this explanation is still tentative. We are currently doing more analysis to rule out possible relationships with other soil edafic factors.

      I hope I was able to address your comments. You can always ask me more questions whenever you dim necessary.