Biogeosciences Discuss., 10, 11181-11211, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
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This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in BG.
Soil organic carbon dynamics following afforestation in the Loess Plateau of China
N. Lu1, J. Liski2, R. Y. Chang3, A. Akujärvi2, X. Wu1, T. T. Jin4, Y. F. Wang1, and B. J. Fu1
1State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100085, China
2Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Natural Environment Centre/Ecosystem Change Unit, Helsinki, Finland
3Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu, 610041, China
4China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, Beijing, 100038, China

Abstract. Soil organic carbon (SOC) is the largest terrestrial carbon pool and sensitive to land use and cover change; its dynamics is critical for carbon cycling in terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere. In this study, we combined a modeling approach and field measurements to examine the temporal dynamics of SOC following afforestation of former arable land at six sites under different climatic conditions in the Loess Plateau during 1980–2010. The results showed that the measured mean SOC increased to levels higher than before afforestation when taking the last measurements (i.e., at age 25 to 30 yr), although it decreased in the first few years at the wetter sites. The accumulation rates of SOC were 1.58 to 6.22% yr–1 in the upper 20 cm and 1.62 to 5.15% yr–1 in the upper 40 cm of soil. The simulations reproduced the basic characteristics of measured SOC dynamics, suggesting that litter input and climatic factors (temperature and precipitation) were the major causes for SOC dynamics and the differences among the sites. They explained 88–96, 48–86 and 57–74% of the variations in annual SOC changes at the soil depths of 0–20, 0–40, and 0–100 cm, respectively. Notably, the simulated SOC decreased during the first few years at all the sites, although the magnitudes of decreases were small at the drier sites. This suggested that the modeling may be advantageous in capturing SOC changes at finer time scale. The discrepancy between the simulation and measurement was a result of uncertainties in model structure, data input, and sampling design. Our findings indicated that afforestation promoted soil carbon sequestration at the study sites, which is favorable for further restoration of the vegetation and environment. Afforestation activities should decrease soil disturbances to reduce carbon release in the early stage. The long-term strategy for carbon fixation capability of the plantations should also consider the climate and site conditions, species adaptability, and successional stage of recovery.

Citation: Lu, N., Liski, J., Chang, R. Y., Akujärvi, A., Wu, X., Jin, T. T., Wang, Y. F., and Fu, B. J.: Soil organic carbon dynamics following afforestation in the Loess Plateau of China, Biogeosciences Discuss., 10, 11181-11211, doi:10.5194/bgd-10-11181-2013, 2013.
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