Environmental Management

, Volume 55, Issue 5, pp 1191–1199 | Cite as

Soil Organic Carbon Beneath Croplands and Re-established Grasslands in the North Dakota Prairie Pothole Region

  • Rebecca L. Phillips
  • Mikki R. Eken
  • Mark S. West


Grassland ecosystems established under the conservation reserve program (CRP) in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) currently provide soil conservation and wildlife habitat services. We aimed to determine if these lands also sequester soil organic carbon (SOC), as compared with neighboring croplands across multiple farms in the North Dakota PPR. We sampled soil from small plots at 17 private farms in the central North Dakota PPR, where long-term (≥15 years) grasslands managed under the CRP were paired with neighboring annual croplands. Cores were collected to 100 cm and split into 0–10, 10–20, 20–30, 30–40, 40–70, and 70–100 cm soil depth layers. We hypothesized the effect of land use on soil organic carbon (SOC), root carbon (C), and bulk density would be greatest near the surface. For 0–10 and 10–20 cm layers, grasslands managed under the CRP were lower in bulk density and higher in SOC. From 0 to 70 cm, grasslands managed under the CRP were higher in root C. Average (±standard error) SOC for re-established grasslands and croplands was 25.39 (0.91) and 21.90 (1.02), respectively, for the 0–10 cm soil layer and 19.88 (0.86) and 18.31 (0.82), respectively, for the 10–20 soil layer. Compared to croplands, re-established grasslands sampled in the North Dakota PPR were 3–13 % lower in bulk density and 9–16 % higher in SOC from 0 to 20 cm, while root C was 2–6 times greater from 0 to 70 cm.


Conservation reserve program (CRP) Soil depth Inorganic carbon Land-use change Carbon sequestration Root carbon 


  1. Aguilar R, Kelly EF, Heil RD (1988) Effects of cultivation on soils in Northern Great Plains rangeland. Soil Sci Soc Am J 52:1081–1085CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ampleman MD, Crawford KM, Fike DA (2014) Differential soil organic carbon storage at forb- and grass-dominated plant communities, 33 years after tallgrass prairie restoration. Plant Soil 374:899–913. doi:10.1007/s11104-013-1916-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson RL, Bowman RA (2002) Conservation reserve program: effects on soil organic carbon and preservation when converting back to cropland in northeastern Colorado. J Soil Water Conserv 57:121–129Google Scholar
  4. Barker WT, Whitman WC (1988) Vegetation of the Northern Great Plains. Rangelands 10:266–2720Google Scholar
  5. Beeri O, Phillips RL (2007) Tracking palustrine water seasonal and annual variability in agricultural wetland landscapes using Landsat from 1997 to 2005. Glob Chang Biol 13:897–920. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2006.01306.x Google Scholar
  6. Bell LW, Sparling B, Tenuta M, Entz MH (2012) Soil profile carbon and nutrient stocks under long-term conventional and organic crop and alfalfa-crop rotations and re-established grassland. Agri Ecosyst Environ 158:156–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blake GR, Hartge KH (1986) Bulk density. In: Klute A (ed) Methods of soil analysis, vol 1, 2nd edn., Agronomy monographs 9SSSA and ASA, Madison, pp 363–375Google Scholar
  8. Bronson KF, Zobeck TM, Chua TT, Acosta-Martinez V, van Pelt RS, Booker JD (2004) Carbon and nitrogen pools of Southern High Plains cropland and grassland soils. Soil Sci Soc Am J 68:1695–1704CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cahill KN, Kucharik CJ, Foley JA (2009) Prairie restoration and carbon sequestration: difficulties quantifying C sources and sinks using a biometric approach. Ecol Appl 19:2185–2201. doi:10.2307/40346321 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Davidson EA, Ackerman IL (1993) Changes in soil carbon inventories following cultivation of previously untilled soils. Biogeochemistry 20:161–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ducks Unlimited Staff (2013) DU’s carbon sequestration program. www.ducks.org/conservation/ecoassets/carbon-sequestration-program. Accessed 28 Oct 2014
  12. Elbert BH, Bettany JR (1995) Calculation of organic matter and nutrients stored in soils under contrasting management. Can J Soil Sci 75:529–538CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gebhart DL, Johnson HB, Mayeux HS, Polley HW (1994) The CRP increases soil organic carbon. J Soil Water Conserv 49:488Google Scholar
  14. Gee GW, Bauder JW (1986) Particle-size analysis. In: Klute A (ed) Methods of soil analysis, vol 1, 2nd edn., Agonomy monographs 9SSSA and ASA, Madison, pp 383–411Google Scholar
  15. Gill R, Burke IC, Milchunas DG, Lauenroth WK (1999) Relationship between root biomass and soil organic matter pools in the shortgrass steppe of eastern Colorado. Ecosystems 2:226–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jandl R, Rodeghiero M, Martinez C, Cotrufo MF, Bampa F, van Wesemael B, Harrison RB, Guerrini IA, Richter Jr Dd, Rustad L, Lorenz K, Chabbi A, Miglietta F (2014) Current status, uncertainty and future needs in soil organic carbon monitoring. Sci Total Environ 468–469:376–383. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.08.026 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jobbagy EG, Jackson RB (2000) The vertical distribution of soil organic carbon and its relation to climate and vegetation. Ecol Appl 10:423–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Johnson WC, Millett BV, Gilmanov TG, Voldseth RA, Guntenspergen GR, Naugle DE (2005) Vulnerability of northern prairie wetlands to climate change. Bioscience 55:863–872CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kucharik CJ, Brye KR, Norman JM, Foley JA, Gower ST, Bundy LG (2001) Measurements and modeling of carbon and nitrogen cycling in agroecosystems of southern Wisconsin: potential for SOC sequestration during the next 50 years. Ecosystems 4:237–258. doi:10.1007/s10021-001-0007-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kucharik CJ, Roth JA, Nabielski RT (2003) Statistical assessment of a paired-site approach for verification of carbon and nitrogen sequestration on Wisconsin conservation reserve program land. J Soil Water Conserv 58:58–67Google Scholar
  21. Lal R (2004) Agricultural activities and the global carbon cycle. Nutr Cycl Agroecosys 70:103–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. León YSD, Johnson-Maynard J (2013) Ecosystem carbon storage and cycling in restored and native grasslands of the palouse region. Soil Sci Soc Am J 77:929–940CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Littell RC, Milliken GA, Stroup WW, Wolfinger RD (1996) SAS system for mixed models. SAS Inst., Inc., CaryGoogle Scholar
  24. Loeppert RH, Suarez DL (1996) Carbonate and gypsum. In: Sparks DL (ed) Methods of soil analysis, vol 5., Chemical methods (Part 3)SSSA and ASA, Madison, pp 437–474Google Scholar
  25. Menne MJ, Williams CNJ, Vose RS (2013) United States Historical Climatology Network, 2.5 serial monthly dataset edn. Oakridge, TN. http://cdiac.ornl.gov/epubs/ndp/ushcn/ushcn.html. Accessed 27 Oct 2014
  26. Nelson DW, Sommers LE (1996) Total carbon, organic carbon, and organic matter. In: Sparks DL (ed) Methods of soil analysis, vol 5., Chemical methods (Part 3)SSSA and ASA, Madison, pp 961–1010Google Scholar
  27. Norton JB, Mukhwana EJ, Norton U (2012) Loss and recovery of soil organic carbon and nitrogen in a semiarid agroecosystem. Soil Sci Soc Am J 76:505–514. doi:10.2136/ssaj2011.0284 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Omernik JM (1987) Ecoregions of the conterminous United States. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 77:118–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Orgill SE, Condon JR, Conyers MK, Greene RSB, Morris SG, Murphy BW (2014) Sensitivity of soil carbon to management and environmental factors within Australian perennial pasture systems. Geoderma 214–215:70–79. doi:10.1016/j.geoderma.2013.10.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Post WM, Kwon KC (2000) Soil carbon sequestration and land-use change: processes and potential. Glob Chang Biol 6:317–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Reeder JD, Schuman GE, Bowman RA (1998) Soil C and N changes on conservation reserve program lands in the Central Great Plains. Soil Till Res 47:339–349. doi:10.1016/S0167-1987(98)00122-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Robles MD, Burke IC (1997) Legume, grass, and conservation reserve program effects on soil organic matter recovery. Ecol Appl 7:345–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schimel DS, Coleman DC, Horton KA (1985) Soil organic matter dynamics in paired rangeland and cropland toposequences in North Dakota. Geoderma 36:201–214. doi:10.1016/0016-7061(85)90002-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Schlesinger WH (1999) Carbon sequestration in soils. Science 284:2095–2096CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Smith P, Davies CA, Ogle S, Zanchi G, Bellarby J, Bird N, Boddey RM, McNamara NP, Powlson D, Cowie A, Noordwijk M, Davis SC, Richter DDEB, Kryzanowski L, Wijk MT, Stuart J, Kirton A, Eggar D, Newton-Cross G, Adhya TK (2012) Towards an integrated global framework to assess the impacts of land use and management change on soil carbon: current capability and future vision. Glob Change Biol 18:2089–2101. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2012.02689.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Soil Survey Staff (1993) Soil Survey Manual. Soil Conservation Service USDA Handbook 18. USDA, Washington, DC http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/nedc/training/soil/?cid=nrcs142p2_054262. Accessed 8 Jan 2015
  37. Soil Survey Staff (2006) MLRA geographic database, version 4.2. USDA-NRCS. http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/soils/survey/geo/?cid=nrcs142p2.053624. Accessed 27 June 2010
  38. Soil Survey Staff (2010) Web soil survey:soil data mart. USDA-NRCS.http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov Accessed 27 June 2010
  39. Stephens SE, Koons DN, Rotella JJ, Willey DW (2003) Effects of habitat fragmentation on avian nesting success: a review of the evidence at multiple spatial scales. Biol Conserv 115:101–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Strong LL, Sklebar TH, Kermes KE (2005) North Dakota gap analysis project. Final Report. U.S, Geological Survey, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, Jamestown, NDGoogle Scholar
  41. Todhunter P (1995) Hydroclimatic perspectives on waterfowl production in the North Dakota Prairie Pothole Region. Great Plains Res 5:137–162 www.unl.edu/plains/publications/GPR/gpr5.shtml. Accessed 8 Jan 2015
  42. USDA-FSA Staff (2012) Conservation Reserve Program: Statistics. USDA-FSA. http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject=copr&topic=crp-st. Accessed 27 June 2010
  43. Wang Z-P, Han X-G, Li L-H (2008) Effects of grassland conversion to croplands on soil organic carbon in the temperate Inner Mongolia. J Environ Manage 86:529–534. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2006.12.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Werling BP, Dickson TL, Isaacs R, Gaines H, Gratton C, Gross KL, Liere H, Malmstrom CM, Meehan TD, Ruan L, Robertson BA, Robertson GP, Schmidt TM, Schrotenboer AC, Teal TK, Wilson JK, Landis DA (2014) Perennial grasslands enhance biodiversity and multiple ecosystem services in bioenergy landscapes. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 111:1652–1657. doi:10.1073/pnas.1309492111 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wiesmeier M, Spörlein P, Geuß U, Hangen E, Haug S, Reischl A, Schilling B, Lützow M, Kögel-Knabner I (2012) Soil organic carbon stocks in southeast Germany (Bavaria) as affected by land use, soil type and sampling depth. Glob Chang Biol 18:2233–2245. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2012.02699.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wright CK, Wimberly MC (2013) Recent land use change in the Western corn belt threatens grasslands and wetlands. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 110:4134–4139CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca L. Phillips
    • 1
  • Mikki R. Eken
    • 2
  • Mark S. West
    • 3
  1. 1.Landcare ResearchLincolnNew Zealand
  2. 2.Ecological Insights CorporationMandanUSA
  3. 3.Agricultural Research ServiceFort CollinsUSA

Personalised recommendations