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Topographic Effects on Soil Organic Carbon in Louisiana Watersheds

Zhong, Biao, Xu, Y. Jun
Environmental management 2009 v.43 no.4 pp. 662-672
carbon sequestration, correlation, data collection, databases, digital elevation models, drainage, environmental factors, regression analysis, rivers, soil, soil organic carbon, watersheds, Louisiana
Terrestrial carbon storage is influenced by a number of environmental factors, among which topographic and geomorphological features are of special significance. This study was designed to examine the relationships of soil organic carbon (SOC) density to various terrain parameters and watershed characteristics across Louisiana, USA. A polygon data set of 484 watersheds and 12 river drainage basins for Louisiana was used to form the landscape units. SOC densities were calculated for each soil map unit using the State Soil Geographic (STATSGO) database. Average drainage densities and average slopes at watershed and basin scales were quantified with the 1:24 K Digital Elevation Models (DEM) data, and the Louisiana hydrographic water features. Correlation and regression analyses were performed to determine relationships among drainage density, slope, elevation, and SOC. The study found an average watershed drainage density of 1.6 km/km² and an average watershed slope of 2.9 degrees in Louisiana. The results revealed that SOC density at both watershed and basin scales was closely related to drainage density, slope, and elevation. SOC density was positively correlated with watershed drainage density, but negatively correlated with watershed slope gradient and elevation. Regression models were developed for predicting SOC density at watershed and basin scales, obtaining regression coefficients (r ²) ranging from 0.43 to 0.83. The study showed that estimation of SOC at watershed and drainage basin scales combining DEM data can be a feasible approach to improve the understanding of the relationships among SOC, topographic, and geomorphological features.