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Soil carbon storage along a 46-year revegetation chronosequence in a desert area of northern China

Chen, Yong-Le, Zhang, Zhi-Shan, Zhao, Yang, Hu, Yi-Gang, Zhang, Ding-Hai
Geoderma 2018 v.325 pp. 28-36
carbon sequestration, chronosequences, correlation, deserts, dunes, ecosystems, land restoration, soil organic carbon, soil water, soil water content, vegetation, China
Soil contains the majority of terrestrial carbon; however, most studies only focus on soil organic carbon (SOC) in the first meter or even shallower layers, and soil inorganic carbon (SIC) and root-derived carbon (RDC) are often overlooked. Here, we investigated the distribution of soil carbon at a depth of 0–3.0 m over a 46-year revegetation chronosequence on moving sand dunes and evaluated the potential influence of soil water content on soil carbon. The SOC density increased significantly along the 0–3.0 m profile, and showed a faster increasing rate in shallow layer (0–0.4 m) than that of the deep layers below 0.4 m. Although the SIC density did not increase significantly, it accounted for >65% of the total soil carbon in shallow layer and at least 82% in deep layer. The live and dead RDC increased significantly over the chronosequence in both shallow and deep layers. The RDC accounted for a small amount of the total soil carbon at an average of 3.19%. The SOC was closely linked with live RDC in both the shallow and deep layers. The soil water content was only positively correlated with the SOC in the shallow layer. The SOC storage in the shallow layer required 57.4 years to reach the level at the natural vegetation site, whereas the storage in the deep layers required >100 years. Our results indicated that soil carbon accumulation is a slow process in both shallow and deep layers after revegetation, and the most notable increase in soil carbon was accounted by SOC. We suggest that SOC, SIC and RDC should be considered when assessing the effects of revegetation on soil carbon in water-limited ecosystems.