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Baseline map of soil organic carbon in Tibet and its uncertainty in the 1980s

Zhou, Y., Webster, R., Viscarra Rossel, R.A., Shi, Z., Chen, S.
Geoderma 2019 v.334 pp. 124-133
carbon, climate, coniferous forests, cropland, deciduous forests, evapotranspiration, global warming, meadows, models, net primary productivity, normalized difference vegetation index, prediction, regression analysis, shrubs, soil profiles, soil types, steppes, temperature, uncertainty, China
Much of the carbon (C) stored in the soil of the high Qinghai–Tibet Plateau could be lost as a result of global warming. To provide a baseline against which to assess the loss we have made a new map at 90-m resolution from sample data of 1148 soil profiles augmented by information on climate, vegetation, physiography and digital elevation. We used the program Cubist, which works as a form of regression tree, to predict the concentration at the nodes of the 90-m grid. The uncertainty of the predictions was computed by bootstrapping 50 times at each node. Soil type, evapotranspiration (ET), precipitation, radiation and vegetation type contributed most to the variation in C at the coarse scale; temperature, net primary productivity, normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), ET and elevation contributed most at finer scales. We mapped the predicted concentration of C and converted the predictions to stocks of C for the main kinds of land: 1.93 Pg for the alpine steppe, 1.57 Pg for the meadow, 0.66 Pg in the coniferous forest, 0.63 Pg in the broadleaf forest, 1.06 Pg under shrub, < 0.4 Pg for each of the alpine desert and cropland. We estimate the uppermost 30 cm of soil to contain 6.81 Pg of C with 95% (3.80 to 10.27 Pg). This estimate differs substantially from the two previous coarser estimates based on global modelling which far exceed our 95% upper confidence limit. Our new estimate can now serve as a base against which to judge any change of soil C as a response to global warming.