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The effects of land abandonment and long‐term afforestation practices on the organic carbon stock and lignin content of Mediterranean humid mountain soils

Campo, Julian, Stijsiger, Romy J., Nadal‐Romero, Estela, Cammeraat, Erik L.H.
European journal of soil science 2019 v.70 no.5 pp. 947-959
Pinus nigra, Pinus sylvestris, abandoned land, afforestation, arable soils, biomass, carbon sequestration, carbon sinks, land use change, lignin, lignin content, meadow soils, meadows, mountain soils, pyrolysis, secondary succession, soil organic carbon, tetramethylammonium compounds, watersheds, Spain
Afforestation is an important strategy that can decrease atmospheric carbon by sequestering carbon in biomass and soil. In Spain, an active afforestation programme was adopted in the 1950s when the soil was severely eroded after widespread abandonment of arable land. The Araguás catchment (Central Spanish Pyrenees) is a good example of this programme because it was afforested with both Pinus sylvestris L. (PS) and Pinus nigra J.F.Arnold (PN). The soil organic carbon (SOC) stock and lignin content (based on the vanillyl, syringyl and cinnamyl contents) of these afforested soils were examined and compared to those of bare soil, secondary succession and meadow soils. Both the SOC stock and lignin content were used to evaluate the effects of land‐use changes on soil. Curie‐point pyrolysis with tetramethylammonium hydroxide was used to assess the lignin content. In the bare soil, there was none of the lignin compounds. The largest SOC stock and lignin content occurred under PN and secondary succession sites. A decreasing trend for the lignin content, related to the limited organic matter input and the longer degradation period, was observed at deeper horizons in all soils except meadows. These meadow soils also showed increased SOC stocks in deeper horizons. Land abandonment reduced the SOC stock although no significant differences were observed in the organic carbon incorporation assessed through lignin content (and if this was so it was restricted to the top centimetre or so). According to the results, PN was the best afforestation practice for increasing SOC stock and lignin content in soil. Pinus sylvestris afforestation was less successful than secondary succession at increasing SOC sequestration and lignin content. HIGHLIGHTS: Effects of long‐term afforestation and land abandonment assessed in Mediterranean humid mountain soils. Soil organic carbon (SOC) stock and lignin content were used as indicators. Bare soil had the smallest SOC stock and lignin content. Afforestation with Pinus nigra was the best practice, increasing SOC stock and lignin content.