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Changes in soil organic carbon, nitrogen, pH and bulk density with the development of larch Larix gmelinii plantations in China

, : Changes in soil organic carbon, nitrogen, pH and bulk density with the development of larch Larix gmelinii plantations in China. Global Change Biology 17(8): 2657-2676

Under the government of China's environmental program known as Returning Farmland To Forests (RFTF), about 28 million hectares of farmland have been converted to tree plantation. This has led to a large accumulation of biomass carbon, but less is known about underground carbon-related processes. One permanent plot (25-years of observation) and 4 chronosequence plot series comprising 159 plots of larch (Larix gmelinii) plantations in northeastern China were studied. Both methods found significant SOC accumulation (96.4 g C m?2 yr?1) and bulk density decrease (5.7 mg cm?3 yr?1) in the surface soil layer ( 2 cm), but no consistent changes in deeper layers, indicating that larch planting under the RFTF program can increase soil organic carbon storage and improve the physical properties of surface soil. Nitrogen depletion (4.1 4.3 g m?2 yr?1), soil acidification (.7 .22 pH units yr?1) and C/N ratio increase (.16 .46 yr?1) were observed in lessive soil, whereas no significant changes were found in typical dark-brown forest soil. This SOC accumulation rate (96.4 g m?2 yr?1) can take 39% of the total carbon sink capacity (NEE) of larch forests in this region and the total soil carbon sequestration could be 87 Tg carbon within 2 years of plantation by approximating all larch plantations in northeastern China(4.5 Mha), showing the importance of soil carbon accumulation in the ecosystem carbon balance. By comparison with the rates of these processes in agricultural use, the RFTF program of reversing land use for agriculture will rehabilitate SOC, soil fertility and bulk density slowly (<69% of the depletion rate in agricultural use), so that a much longer duration is needed to rehabilitate the underground function of soil via the RFTF program. Global forest plantations on abandoned farmland or function to protecting farmland are of steady growth and our findings may be important for understanding their underground carbon processes.


DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02447.x

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