Fern, Dicranopteris linearis, derived phytoliths in soil Morphotypes, solubility and content in relation to soil properties

Minh N. Nguyen*, Andy A. Meharg, Manus Carey, Stefan Dultz, Federica Marone, Sarah B. Cichy, Chinh T. Tran, Giang H. Le, Nga T. Mai, Thinh T.H. Nguyen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Ferns are among the most popular groups of plants in the tropics and subtropics, and their role as carbon sequestrators has been widely recognized. However, there is little understanding of the silicaceous structures (phytoliths) of ferns, rate of phytolith turnover, the consequences for organic matter sequestered in phytoliths and consequences for other soil properties. In the study reported here, high-resolution X-ray tomographic microscopy and chemical characterization were applied to examine the traits of phytoliths of the fern Dicranopteris linearis (Burm.f.) Underw. (D. linearis), with a focus on their dissolution properties and accumulation in northern Vietnamese soils in relation to soil properties. Tomographic images revealed an inter-embedding structure of silica and organic matter, especially in leaf-derived material. We propose that organic matter and silica can preserve each other against decomposition. In batch experiments, there was a relatively small rate of dissolution of phytoliths with dry ashing and subsequent H2O2 treatment. Silicon (Si) dissolution for D. linearis phytolith samples was much less than that for rice phytoliths. Despite the fact that the aluminum (Al) content was large in D. linearis leaves, batch dissolution data did not confirm a relation between Al and the slow rate of phytolith dissolution. The soil phytolith content varied from 0.9 to 7.5 g kg−1 in the topsoil across the mountainous areas in northern Vietnam, whereas it tended to be smaller in the subsoil. The data indicate a relation between phytolith and soil organic matter, clay content, oxalate-soluble Al and electrical conductivity, suggesting that these soil properties are among the important factors affecting the size of the soil phytolith Si pool. Highlights: Si tends to accumulate in leaves rather than stems of the fern D. linearis. D. linearis phytoliths showed little dissolution, suggesting their strong stability. OC, EC, clay content and Alox appear as factors ‘feeding’ D. linearis phytoliths. In contrast, Feox and pH did not correlate with D. linearis phytolith content.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-517
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Soil Science
Issue number3
Early online date08 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2019


  • accumulation in soils
  • dissolution properties
  • phytolith
  • silicon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


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