Minerals are widely assumed to protect organic matter (OM) from degradation in the environment, promoting the persistence of carbon in soil and sediments. In this Review, we describe the mechanisms and processes operating at the mineral–organic interface as they relate to OM transformation dynamics. A broad set of interactions occur, with minerals adsorbing organic compounds to their surfaces and/or acting as catalysts for organic reactions. Minerals can serve as redox partners for OM through direct electron transfer or by generating reactive oxygen species, which then oxidize OM. Finally, the compartmentalization of soil and sediment by minerals creates unique microsites that host diverse microbial communities. Acknowledgement of this multiplicity of interactions suggests that the general assumption that the mineral matrix provides a protective function for OM is overly simplistic. Future work must recognize adsorption as a condition for further reactions instead of as a final destination for organic adsorbates, and should consider the spatial and functional complexity that is characteristic of the environments where mineral–OM interactions are observed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science
- Earth-Surface Processes
- Nature and Landscape Conservation