Introduction Reaction Kinetics
Modeling the Dynamics of Decomposition and Nutrient Transformations
Establishing Pool Sizes and Kinetic Constants Model Selection and Evaluation References and Suggested Reading introduction
Knowledge of the turnover rates of plant and animal residues, microbial bodies, and soil organic matter (SOM) is a prerequisite for understanding the availability and cycling of nutrients such as C, N, S, and P. This understanding is essential in describing ecosystem dynamics and in calculating crop nutrient needs relative to environmental pollution control. It is also necessary if we are to gain an understanding of how turnover might affect C sequestration and, in turn, be altered by global change. The significance of microbially mediated decay products involved in SOM decomposition and nutrient cycling can best be determined using mathematical analysis of tracer and non-tracer data. This requires knowledge of the various reservoirs or pool sizes in the system under study and the rates at which materials are transformed within and transferred between them.
Understanding the dynamics of nutrient, plant residue, or SOM transformations in the field requires meaningful mathematical expressions for the biological, chemical, and physical processes involved. The reaction rate of decomposition (represented by the change in substrate concentration with time, dS/dt) can be expressed as a function of the concentration of one or more of the substrates being degraded. The order of the reaction is the value of the exponent on the substrate concentration in the equation used to describe the reaction.
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