Humic Acid Composition and Characteristics of Soil Organic Matter in Relation to the Elevation Gradient of Moso Bamboo Plantations

PLoS One. 2016 Sep 1;11(9):e0162193. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0162193. eCollection 2016.


Studying the influence of climatic and/or site-specific factors on soil organic matter (SOM) along an elevation gradient is important for understanding the response of SOM to global warming. We evaluated the composition of SOM and structure of humic acids along an altitudinal gradient from 600 to 1400 m in moso bamboo (Phyllostachys edulis) plantations in central Taiwan using NMR spectroscopy and photometric analysis. Total organic C and total nitrogen (N) content increased with increasing elevation. Aromaticity decreased and ΔlogK (the logarithm of the absorbance ratio of humic acids at 400 and 600 nm) increased with increasing elevation, which suggests that SOM humification decreased with increasing elevation. High temperature at low elevations seemed to enhance the decomposition (less accumulation of total organic C and N) and humification (high aromaticity and low ΔlogK). The alkyl-C/O-alkyl-C (A/O-A) ratio of humic acids increased with increasing elevation, which suggests that SOM humification increased with increasing elevation; this finding was contrary to the trend observed for ΔlogK and aromaticity. Such a discrepancy might be due to the relatively greater remaining of SOM derived from high alkyl-C broadleaf litter of previous forest at high elevations. The ratio of recalcitrant C to total organic C was low at low elevations, possibly because of enhanced decomposition of recalcitrant SOM from the previous broadleaf forest during long-term intensive cultivation and high temperature. Overall, the change in SOM pools and in the rate of humification with elevation was primarily affected by changes in climatic conditions along the elevation gradient in these bamboo plantations. However, when the composition of SOM, as assessed by NMR spectroscopy and photometric analysis was considered, site-specific factors such as residual SOM from previous forest and intensive cultivation history could also have an important effect on the humic acid composition and humification of SOM.

MeSH terms

  • Bambusa*
  • Humic Substances*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Soil / chemistry*
  • Taiwan


  • Humic Substances
  • Soil

Grant support

This study was sponsored by Academia Sinica and the Ministry and Technology, Taiwan (MOST 104-2621-B-001-005). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.