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Simple measures of climate, soil properties and plant traits predict national scale grassland soil carbon stocks

Manning, P., de Vries, F. T., Tallowin, J. R. B., Smith, R., Mortimer, S. R., Pilgrim, E. S., Harrison, K. A., Wright, D. G., Quirk, H., Benson, J., Shipley, B., Cornelissen, J. H. C., Kattge, J., Bonisch, G., Wirth, C. and Bardgett, R. D. (2015) Simple measures of climate, soil properties and plant traits predict national scale grassland soil carbon stocks. Journal of Applied Ecology, 52 (5). pp. 1188-1196. ISSN 0021-8901

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12478

Abstract/Summary

1. Soil carbon (C) storage is a key ecosystem service. Soil C stocks play a vital role in soil fertility and climate regulation, but the factors that control these stocks at regional and national scales are unknown, particularly when their composition and stability are considered. As a result, their mapping relies on either unreliable proxy measures or laborious direct measurements. 2. Using data from an extensive national survey of English grasslands we show that surface soil (0-7cm) C stocks in size fractions of varying stability can be predicted at both regional and national scales from plant traits and simple measures of soil and climatic conditions. 3. Soil C stocks in the largest pool, of intermediate particle size (50-250 µm), were best explained by mean annual temperature (MAT), soil pH and soil moisture content. The second largest C pool, highly stable physically and biochemically protected particles (0.45-50 µm), was explained by soil pH and the community abundance weighted mean (CWM) leaf nitrogen (N) content, with the highest soil C stocks under N rich vegetation. The C stock in the small active fraction (250-4000 µm) was explained by a wide range of variables: MAT, mean annual precipitation, mean growing season length, soil pH and CWM specific leaf area; stocks were higher under vegetation with thick and/or dense leaves. 4. Testing the models describing these fractions against data from an independent English region indicated moderately strong correlation between predicted and actual values and no systematic bias, with the exception of the active fraction, for which predictions were inaccurate. 5. Synthesis and Applications: Validation indicates that readily available climate, soils and plant survey data can be effective in making local- to landscape-scale (1-100,000 km2) soil C stock predictions. Such predictions are a crucial component of effective management strategies to protect C stocks and enhance soil C sequestration.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Soil Research Centre
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Biodiversity, Crops and Agroecosystems Division > Centre for Agri-environmental Research (CAER)
ID Code:41210
Uncontrolled Keywords:carbon storage, carbon sequestration, community weighted mean, pH, particle size fractions, soil carbon, soil organic matter.
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell

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