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Spatial distribution of soil organic carbon in the Zoige alpine wetland, northeastern Qinghai–Tibet Plateau

Ma, Kun, Zhang, Ying, Tang, Suxian, Liu, Junguo
Catena 2016 v.144 pp. 102-108
bulk density, carbon sequestration, carbon sinks, climate change, correlation, ecosystem services, grasslands, land use, nitrogen content, soil depth, soil organic carbon, water content, wetland soils, wetlands, China
Regional-scale soil organic carbon (SOC) field investigations would significantly improve our understanding of national and global SOC sequestration and carbon (C) cycles. The Zoige wetland is the world's largest high-altitude wetland. It is located in northeastern Qinghai–Tibet Plateau. Although considered sensitive to global climate change, little is known of its wetland SOC stocks and spatial distribution patterns. Accordingly, we investigated SOC stocks and spatial distribution patterns in the uppermost 1m soil layer in Ruoergai and Hongyuan counties in the Zoige wetland. We found that SOC decreased with increasing soil depth, which was highest in the topmost 0.3m soil layer. Total nitrogen and water content were positively correlated to SOC content while bulk density was negatively correlated to SOC content in both wetland and grassland areas. Wetlands had a higher SOC density than grassland. In the uppermost 1m of wetland soil, average SOC density was 69.5kgCm−3, greater by a factor of three compared to mean wetland SOC density in China and greater by a factor of six compared to the national average. SOC stock in the uppermost 1m of wetland soils totaled 514Tg C, of which 50% was stored in the topmost 0.3m. This indicated that the two counties in the Zoige wetland stores from 8.3 to 10.2% of the total SOC in China in the topmost 1m of wetland soils. This vast SOC pool and high SOC density requires sound land use practices to sustain and protect Zoige wetland ecosystem services and C stocks.