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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 825098, 11 pages
Review Article

The Regulation by Phenolic Compounds of Soil Organic Matter Dynamics under a Changing Environment

1School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Yonsei University, Seoul 120-749, Republic of Korea
2Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas, Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence, KS 66047, USA
3School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor LL57 2UW, UK

Received 19 December 2014; Accepted 5 April 2015

Academic Editor: Aiyagari Ramesh

Copyright © 2015 Kyungjin Min et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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.