Climatic Change

, Volume 113, Issue 2, pp 107–120

Effects of climate change and elevated atmospheric CO2 on soil organic carbon: a response equation


  • Zhongbing Lin
    • School of Environmental Science and EngineeringSun Yat-sen University
    • School of Environmental Science and EngineeringSun Yat-sen University

DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0355-7

Cite this article as:
Lin, Z. & Zhang, R. Climatic Change (2012) 113: 107. doi:10.1007/s10584-011-0355-7


Climate change, such as warming and precipitation change, as well as elevated CO2 can affect soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics and cause changes in soil carbon sequestration. In this study, we introduced a response equation, relating the relative change of SOC to the relative changes of annual average temperature, annual precipitation, and atmospheric CO2 concentration, as well as their inter-products. Using Nelson Farm as a case study, based on simulations of CENTURY model and multiple regressions, we examined the response equation for three vegetation covers (i.e., soybean, corn, and grass) and scenarios with different soil erosion rates and initial SOC contents. The response equation fit the simulation results very well with high adjusted coefficients of determination (R2) (0.982 to 0.990). The results showed that the SOC was negatively related to the annual average temperature, positively related to the annual precipitation, and positively related to the elevated CO2 for all the vegetation covers (p < 0.001). The SOC was also significantly impacted by the interaction effects between elevated CO2 and warming or precipitation change (p < 0.001). The general form of the response equations for the different vegetation covers, soil erosion rates, and initial SOC contents was the same although the parameters varied with the different conditions. Based on the response equation, “cutoff surfaces” were defined to clearly quantify the synthesis effects of any possible combination of climate change and elevated CO2 on the SOC, and the SOC sequestration potential was assessed under climate change and elevated CO2 for different vegetations. Compared with the empirical models in the literature, this response equation provides a simple yet but robust method to represent the relationship between the SOC relative change vs. the relative changes of atmospheric temperature, precipitation, and atmospheric CO2 concentration.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012