Influence of soil aggregation on SOC sequestration: A preliminary model of SOC protection by aggregate dynamics

Gayoung Yoo, Xueming Yang, Michelle M. Wander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aggregation dynamics and soil organic carbon (SOC) fractions collected from long-term tillage trials at two sites in Illinois were used to develop a model to simulate the aggregate dynamics and physical protection of SOC. We used two litter pools which are surface litter and root litter and three SOC pools which are directly measurable from the fractionation: loose particulate organic matter (LPOM), aggregate-occluded particulate organic matter (OPOM), and humified fractions (HF). Decay rates of all of five pools were modified by soil temperature and moisture. In the model, the decay rate of LPOM was not influenced by any type of physical protection and the OPOM decay rate was influenced by dry aggregate mean weight diameter (DMWD) size. The effect of DMWD on OPOM decay rate was expressed as logistic equation based on the threshold value beyond which OPOM decay rate was influenced by the reactive mass concept which is that it is primarily outer layer of aggregates that participates in chemical and biological reactions. The decay of HF was influenced by clay contents. The relative aggregate turnover modified the humification coefficients. The faster aggregate turnover speeded the carbon transfer from LPOM to OPOM by providing more chances for organic matter to be incorporated with macroaggregates and retarded carbon transfer from OPOM to HF due to the fact that there is not enough time for organic mater to be associated with microaggregates and clay particles. Simulated results were compared against actual SOC fraction contents obtained from two long-term tillage trials located in Illinois, DeKalb (silty clay loam) and Monmouth (silt loam). Both actual and simulated data showed that after 10 and 17 years of no tillage (NT) practice adoption, OPOM content was increased at the surface in Monmouth and HF content was increased at the surface in DeKalb. Agreement between the output of aggregate dynamics-based model and actual data suggested that DMWD size, relative aggregate turnover, and their interaction with soil moisture and clay contents can be used to predict the inconsistent effects of tillage practices on SOC sequestration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-495
Number of pages9
JournalEcological Engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Aggregate turnover
  • Aggregation
  • DMWD
  • Particulate organic matter
  • Soil organic carbon
  • Tillage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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