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Potential and sustainability for carbon sequestration with improved soil management in agricultural soils of China

Yan, H., Cao, M., Liu, J., Tao, B.
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2007 v.121 no.4 pp. 325-335
indigenous species, agricultural soils, carbon sequestration, vegetation, plant communities, land management, carbon dioxide, climatic factors, soil chemical properties, quantitative analysis, biodegradation, mineralization, tillage, organic fertilizers, fertilizer rates, crop residue management, crop residues, no-tillage, China
Arable land soils generally have lower organic carbon (C) levels than soils under native vegetation; increasing the C stocks through improved management is suggested as an effective means to sequester CO2 from the atmosphere. China's arable lands, accounting for 13% of the world's total, play an important role in soil C sequestration, but their potential to enhance C sequestration has not yet been quantitatively assessed. The C sequestration by agricultural soils is affected by many environmental factors (such as climate and soil conditions), biological processes (crop C fixation, decomposition and transformation), and crop and soil management (e.g. tillage and manure application). Estimation of the C sequestration potential requires the quantification of the combined effects of these factors and processes. In this study, we used a coupled remote sensing- and process-based ecosystem model to estimate the potential for C sequestration in agricultural soils of China and evaluated the sustainability of soil C uptake under different soil management options. The results show that practicing no-tillage on 50% of the arable lands and returning 50% of the crop residue to soils would lead to an annual soil C sequestration of 32.5 Tg C, which accounts for about 4% of China's current annual C emission. Soil C sequestration with improved soil management is highly time-dependent; the effect lasted for only 20-80 years. Generally, practicing no-tillage causes higher rate and longer sustainability of soil C sequestration than only increasing crop residue into soils. The potential for soil C sequestration varied greatly among different regions due to the differences in climate, soil conditions and crop productivity.