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. 2015 Dec 3;528(7580):60-8.
doi: 10.1038/nature16069. Epub 2015 Nov 23.

The Contentious Nature of Soil Organic Matter

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The Contentious Nature of Soil Organic Matter

Johannes Lehmann et al. Nature. .

Abstract

The exchange of nutrients, energy and carbon between soil organic matter, the soil environment, aquatic systems and the atmosphere is important for agricultural productivity, water quality and climate. Long-standing theory suggests that soil organic matter is composed of inherently stable and chemically unique compounds. Here we argue that the available evidence does not support the formation of large-molecular-size and persistent 'humic substances' in soils. Instead, soil organic matter is a continuum of progressively decomposing organic compounds. We discuss implications of this view of the nature of soil organic matter for aquatic health, soil carbon-climate interactions and land management.

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