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LBNL-Earth Sciences Division’s Climate Science Department is a pioneer in carbon cycle research and performs extensive work in soil carbon projects, developing experiments that apply a combination of field and laboratory experiments with advanced analytical techniques that investigate varied aspects of soil carbon cycling and storage. These include study of controls on soil carbon stabilization and destabilization, the natural abundance of radiocarbon (14C), and the labeling of 13C and 15N for decomposition experiments. These experiments are carried out using state-of-the-art LBNL facilities, such as the Advanced Light Source (ALS), for imaging the spatial distribution of organic carbon and nitrogen bound to reactive mineral surfaces, plus a battery of molecular microbiology tools and techniques for detailed investigation of microbial identification and processes in soil.
Isotopic labeling is one type of experiment used in soil carbon cycling and carbon sequestration research. This involves creating and adding isotopically labeled substrates (14C, 13C, 15N) to soils in controlled gradient studies, ecosystem manipulation experiments, or laboratory incubations.