Phenolics are the most abundant plant metabolites and are believed to decompose slowly in soils compared to other soil organic matter (SOM). Thus, they have often been considered as a slow carbon (C) pool in soil dynamics models. Here, however, we review changes in our concept about the turnover rate of phenolics and quantification of different types of phenolics in soils. Also, we synthesize current research on the degradation of phenolics and their regulatory effects on decomposition. Environmental changes, such as elevated CO2, warming, nitrogen (N) deposition, and drought, could influence the production and form of phenolics, leading to a change in SOM dynamics, and thus we also review the fate of phenolics under environmental disturbances. Finally, we propose the use of phenolics as a tool to control rates of SOM decomposition to stabilize organic carbon in ecosystems. Further studies to clarify the role of phenolics in SOM dynamics should include improving quantification methods, elucidating the relationship between phenolics and soil microorganisms, and determining the interactive effects of combinations of environmental changes on the phenolics production and degradation and subsequent impact on SOM processing.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)