EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Organic matter investigation in agricultural Apennine topsoils (Emilia-Romagna Region): carbon pools and isotopic C signature

Enrico Mistri1, Gianluca Bianchini1, Claudio Natali2, Livia Vittori Antisari3, Gloria Falsone3, Mauro De Feudis3, and Valentina Brombin1
Enrico Mistri et al.
  • 1Department of Physics and Earth Science, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy (
  • 2Department of Earth Sciences, University of Florence, Florence, Italy
  • 3Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Itlay

The exploitation of soils due to farming has produced a progressive loss of soil organic matter (SOM) over the years. At the same time, the degradation of SOM has led to a decline of several ecosystem services provided by soil, especially in mountain. Against this background, the partnership between Department of Physics and Earth Sciences of University of Ferrara and Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences of University of Bologna led to the creation of the SaveSOC2 project (Save Soil Organic Carbon), funded by Rural Development Programme of Emilia-Romagna Region. This project primarily seeks to investigate and promote carbon storage processes in agricultural soils of Emilia-Romagna Region (NE Italy). The present study outlines an overview about the SOM dynamics of “I Rodi” organic farm, located in the Modena Apennine. “I Rodi” produces and processes small organic fruits, especially raspberries. Three different sites (grassland -G, very low productive raspberries -LR, and good productive raspberries -GR) have been selected and the topsoils (0-15 cm and 15-30 cm) have been investigated. Elemental and isotopic analyses of soil C were performed using an EA-IRMS. In particular, the application of the Thermally Based Separation protocol [1] allowed the determination of both inorganic (IC) and organic (OC) carbon contents in each soil sample. OC accounted for 93.50% of the total carbon (1.72-4.84 wt.%). The negative δ13C values of the total carbon (from -27.8 to -19.7 ‰) confirmed the predominance of OC over IC in the investigated soils. The average values of OC isotopic C signature showed a decreasing trend among the three sites (-28.2, -27.2 and -25.8‰ for GR, G and LR, respectively), with the low productivity site having the highest δ13C value. The isotopic C signature of separated organic C fractions (0-15 cm topsoils) showed that humin (832-879 g/kg), which is the SOM fraction mostly interacting with the soil mineral phase and the largest pool, confirmed the observed trend (-27.5, -27.0, -26.4‰, GR, G and LR). The humic acids (6-17 g/kg) showed similar trend but lower δ13C values in all sites (-28.5, -28.0, -26.8 ‰, GR, G and LR). Finally, fulvic acids (5-10 g/kg) differed, having dissimilar trend and values of δ13C (-27.1, -26.8, -26.0 ‰ for G, GR and LR). Comparing to G, the GR data suggested that organic management i) did not decrease quantity and quality of organic matter, and ii) it was more efficient in OC stabilisation, increasing the amount of less transformed OC in both humin and humic acids (more negative δ13C values). In the LR site, instead, the observed trend can be due to low suitability of this soil to raspberries production, negatively affecting both crop yields and organic C dynamics. In our opinion, in order to combine agricultural productivity and its sustainability, more attention should be paid both to soil management and suitability in the area.

[1] Natali C., Bianchini G., Vittori Antisari L. 2018. Thermal separation coupled with elemental and isotopic analysis: A method for soil carbon characterisation. Catena 164, 150-157.

How to cite: Mistri, E., Bianchini, G., Natali, C., Vittori Antisari, L., Falsone, G., De Feudis, M., and Brombin, V.: Organic matter investigation in agricultural Apennine topsoils (Emilia-Romagna Region): carbon pools and isotopic C signature, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-7646,, 2020

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