1Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária, EMBRAPA – Informática Agropecuária, Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil
2Universidade de Campinas – CEPAGRI-UNICAMP, Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil
3Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária, EMBRAPA Café, Brasília, Distrito Federal, Brazil
4Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária, EMBRAPA Cerrados, Planaltina, Distrito Federal, Brazil
5Centro de Energia Nuclear na Agricultura, CENA-USP, Laboratório de Ecologia Isotópica, Piracicaba, São Paulo, Brazil
Abstract. In this paper we calculated soil carbon stocks in Brazil using 17 paired sites where soil stocks were determined in native vegetation, pastures and crop-livestock systems (CPS), and in other regional samplings encompassing more than 100 pasture soils, from 6.58° S to 31.53° S, involving three major Brazilian biomes: Cerrado, Atlantic Forest, and the Pampa. The average native vegetation soil carbon stocks at 10 and 30 cm soil depth were equal to approximately 33 and 65 Mg ha−1, respectively. In the paired sites, carbon losses of 7.5 Mg ha−1 and 11.9 Mg ha−1 in CPS systems were observed at 10 cm and 30 cm soil depth averages, respectively. In pasture soils, carbon losses were similar and equal to 8.3 Mg ha−1 and 12.2 Mg ha−1 at 10 cm and 30 cm soil depths, respectively. The average soil δ13C under native vegetation at 10 and 30 cm depth were equal to −25.4‰ and −24.0‰, increasing to −19.6 ‰ and −17.7‰ in CPS, and to −18.9‰, and −18.3‰ in pasture soils, respectively; indicating an increasing contribution of C4 carbon in these agrosystems. In the regional survey of pasture soils, the soil carbon stock at 30 cm was equal to approximately 51 Mg ha−1, with an average δ13C value of −19.6‰. Key controllers of soil carbon stock at pasture sites were sand content and mean annual temperature. Collectively, both could explain approximately half of the variance of soil carbon stocks. When pasture soil carbon stocks were compared with the average soil carbon stocks of native vegetation estimated for Brazilian biomes and soil types by Bernoux et al. (2002) there was a carbon gain of 6.7 Mg ha−1, which is equivalent to a carbon gain of 15% compared to the carbon soil stock of the native vegetation. The findings of this study are consistent with differences found between regional comparisons like our pasture sites and local paired study sites in estimating soil carbon stocks changes due to land use changes.