Articles | Volume 12, issue 6
Research article
16 Mar 2015
Research article |  | 16 Mar 2015

Soil organic carbon in the Sanjiang Plain of China: storage, distribution and controlling factors

D. H. Mao, Z. M. Wang, L. Li, Z. H. Miao, W. H. Ma, C. C. Song, C. Y. Ren, and M. M. Jia

Abstract. The accurate estimation of soil organic carbon (SOC) storage and determination of its pattern-controlling factors is critical to understanding the ecosystem carbon cycle and ensuring ecological security. The Sanjiang Plain, an important grain production base in China, is typical of ecosystems, yet its SOC storage and pattern has not been fully investigated because of insufficient soil investigation. In this study, 419 soil samples obtained in 2012 for each of the three soil depth ranges 0–30, 30–60, and 60–100 cm and a geostatistical method are used to estimate the total SOC storage and density (SOCD) of this region. The results give rise to 2.32 Pg C for the SOC storage and 21.20 kg m−2 for SOCD, which is higher than the mean value for the whole country. The SOCD shows notable changes in lateral and vertical distribution. In addition, vegetation, climate, and soil texture, as well as agricultural activities, are demonstrated to have remarkable impacts on the variation in SOCD of this region. Soil texture has stronger impacts on the distribution of SOCD than climate in the Sanjiang Plain. Specifically, clay content can explain the largest proportion of the SOC variations (21.2% in the top 30 cm) and is the most dominant environmental controlling factor. Additionally, the effects of both climate and soil texture on SOCD show a weakening with increasing soil layer depth. This study indicates that reducing the loss of SOC requires effective conservation and restoration efforts of wetlands and forestlands, as well as sensible fertilization. The results from this study provide the most up-to-date knowledge on the storage and pattern of SOC in the Sanjiang Plain and have important implications for the determination of ecosystem carbon budgets and understanding ecosystem services.

Short summary
The Sanjiang Plain of China, an important grain production base, is typical of ecosystems. In this study, 419 soil samples and a geostatistical method were used to estimate total SOC storage and to determine its pattern-controlling factors. The results from this study provide the most up-to-date knowledge on the storage and pattern of SOC in this plain, and the analysis conducted here could contribute to the determination of ecosystem carbon budgets and our understanding of ecosystem services.
Final-revised paper