Articles | Volume 9, issue 6
Biogeosciences, 9, 1997–2012, 2012
Biogeosciences, 9, 1997–2012, 2012

Research article 07 Jun 2012

Research article | 07 Jun 2012

Differential long-term effects of climate change and management on stocks and distribution of soil organic carbon in productive grasslands

A. M. G. De Bruijn1,2, P. Calanca1, C. Ammann1, and J. Fuhrer1 A. M. G. De Bruijn et al.
  • 1Agroscope ART, Federal Research Station, Air pollution/Climate Group, Reckenholzstrasse 191, 8046 Zürich, Switzerland
  • 2Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2061, USA

Abstract. We studied the impact of climate change on the dynamics of soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks in productive grassland systems undergoing two types of management, an intensive type with frequent harvests and fertilizer applications and an extensive system without fertilization and fewer harvests. Simulations were conducted with a dedicated newly developed model, the Oensingen Grassland Model. It was calibrated using measurements taken in a recently established permanent sward in Central Switzerland, and run to simulate SOC dynamics over 2001–2100 under various climate change scenarios assuming different elements of IPCC A2 emission scenarios. We found that: (1) management intensity dominates SOC until approximately 20 years after grassland establishment. Differences in SOC between climate scenarios become significant after 20 years and climate effects dominate SOC dynamics from approximately 50 years after establishment. (2) Carbon supplied through manure contributes about 60 % to measured organic C increase in fertilized grassland. (3) Soil C accumulates particularly in the top 10 cm of the soil until 5 years after establishment. In the long-term, C accumulation takes place in the top 15 cm of the soil profile, while C content decreases below this depth. The transitional depth between gains and losses of C mainly depends on the vertical distribution of root senescence and root biomass. We discuss the importance of previous land use on carbon sequestration potentials that are much lower at the Oensingen site under ley-arable rotation with much higher SOC stocks than most soils under arable crops. We further discuss the importance of biomass senescence rates, because C balance estimations indicate that these may differ considerably between the two management systems.

Final-revised paper