, Volume 84, Issue 2, pp 171-189
Date: 16 May 2007

The organic carbon dynamics of a moorland catchment in N. W. England

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Abstract

The carbon cycle was quantified in the catchment of Doe House Gill, which drains high-relief moorland, with thin organic-rich soils (leptosols and podzols) 10–25 cm deep, in northern England. The soil C pool of 8,300 g m-2 is due mainly to humic acid and older humin. If steady state is assumed, and a single soil C pool, the average 14C content of the whole soil (93% modern) yields a mean carbon residence time of 800 years, although this varied from 300 to 1,600 years in the four samples studied. Stream water fluxes of dissolved and particulate organic carbon (DOC, POC) were 2.5 and 0.4 g m−2 a−1 respectively in 2002–2003, lower than values for some other upland streams in the UK. The C pool, flux, and isotope data were used, with the assumption of steady state, to calibrate DyDOC, a model that simulates the soil carbon cycle, including the generation and transport of DOC. According to DyDOC, the litter pool (ca. 100 gC m−2) turns over quickly, and most (>90%) of the litter carbon is rapidly mineralised. The soil is calculated to gain only 16 gC m−2 a−1, and to lose the same amount, about 80% as CO2 and 20% as DOC. From the DO14C content of 107.5% modern (due to “bomb carbon”) the model could be calibrated by assuming all DOC to come directly from litter, but DOC is more likely a mixture, derived from more than one soil C pool. The seasonal variability exhibited by stream water DOC concentration (maximum in September, minimum in January) is attributed mainly to variations in rainfall and evapotranspiration, rather than in the metabolic production rate of “potential DOC”. The model predicts that, for a Q 10 of 2, the total soil organic C pool would decrease by about 5% if subjected to warming over 200 years. DyDOC predicts higher DOC fluxes in response to increased litter inputs or warming, and can simulate changes in DOC flux due to variations in sorption to soil solids, that might occur due to acidification and its reversal.