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Accumulation of carbon and nitrogen in the plant–soil system after afforestation of active sand dunes in China's Horqin Sandy Land

Li, Yuqiang, Brandle, James, Awada, Tala, Chen, Yinping, Han, Juanjuan, Zhang, Fengxia, Luo, Yongqing
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2013 v.177 pp. 75-84
Pinus sylvestris, afforestation, arid lands, biomass, carbon, carbon sequestration, dunes, ecosystems, nitrogen, nitrogen content, plantations, soil, China
Afforestation of drylands is a potentially effective option to sequester carbon and to restore degraded soils and ecosystems. In China's Horqin Sandy Land, we investigated the effects of afforestation using Mongolian pine (Pinus sylvestris var. mongolica Litv.) in areas with active sand dunes on carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) storage in the plant–soil system. The 28- and 38-year-old plantations had 72 and 160 times the ecosystem biomass C storage, respectively, of areas with active sand dunes; the corresponding ecosystem biomass N storage was 48 and 105 times the value for areas with active dunes, versus 1.8 and 2.3 times for soil total C (organic plus inorganic) storage and 1.4 and 1.5 times for soil total N storage. The C and N accumulation rates in the plant–soil system were 678kgCha−1y−1 and 23kgNha−1y−1, respectively, over 38 years. The remarkable effects of afforestation on soil C and N primarily appeared in the upper 20cm of the soil. Our results indicated that afforestation of active sand dunes with Mongolian pine has high potential to sequester C and N in the plants and the soil. The biomass played a more important role than the soil for C sequestration, but the soil played a more important role than the biomass for N sequestration.