As a unique biomarker of terrigenous organic matter (OM), lignin has provided valuable information for tracing the sources of OM in land to ocean transfer. Oceanian small mountainous rivers (SMRs) are characterized by extremely high erosional rate and quick change in microclimate within watershed, which may potentially affect the distribution of soil OC and lignin concentrations and compositions. Bulk OC% and lignin were determined on surface soils and soil profiles from a Taiwanese SMR (Jhuoshuei River) and nearby region along a large altitudinal gradient (3–3176 m) to investigate the influence of microclimate on soil OC and lignin. Both surface soils OC% and lignin increased in higher altitude, suggesting higher preservation of OM in the cold region. Variations in lignin vegetation indices (S/V and C/V) in surface soils generally reflect the vegetation change in this river basin, and were more affected by precipitation seasonality than mean annual precipitation. Lignin concentration decreased with depth, along with a decrease in S/V and C/V and an increase in degradation indices ((Ad/Al)v and DHBA/V), reflecting a decreased input and/or biodegradation of lignin in subsoils. Our survey on soil lignin in Taiwan SMR provided the basis for utilizing lignin to trace the source of OC in land to ocean transfer as well as paleo-climate and paleo-vegetation reconstruction study in Taiwan SMRs.
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