, Volume 14, Issue 8, pp 1217–1231 | Cite as

Soil Carbon and Nitrogen Storage in Upper Montane Riparian Meadows

  • Jay B. Norton
  • Laura J. Jungst
  • Urszula Norton
  • Hayley R. Olsen
  • Kenneth W. Tate
  • William R. Horwath


Though typically limited in aerial extent, soils of high-elevation riparian wetlands have among the highest density of soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) of terrestrial ecosystems and therefore contribute disproportionally to ecosystem services such as water retention, forage production, wildlife habitat, and reactive N removal. Because much soil C and N is stored in labile forms in anaerobic conditions, management activities or environmental changes that lead to drying cause mineralization of labile soil organic matter, and loss of C and N. Meadows are focal points of human activities in mountain regions, often with incised stream channels from historically heavy grazing exacerbated by extreme runoff events. To quantify soil C and N stores in montane riparian meadows across hydrologic conditions, 17 meadows between 1950- and 2675-m elevation were selected in the central Sierra Nevada Range, California, that were classified using the proper functioning condition (PFC) system. Results indicate that C and N density in whole-solum soil cores were equivalent at forest edge positions of properly functioning, functioning at-risk, and nonfunctioning condition. Soils under more moist meadow positions in properly functioning meadows have at least twice the C, N, dissolved organic C, and dissolved organic N (DON) than those under nonfunctioning meadows. Densities of total N and DON, but not C, of functioning at-risk meadows are significantly lower (P < 0.05) than those of properly functioning meadows at mid-slope and stream-bank positions, suggesting accelerated loss of N early in degradation processes. Though variable, the soil attributes measured correspond well to the PFC riparian wetland classification system.


soil organic matter riparian meadows wetlands soil organic carbon carbon and nitrogen storage Sierra Nevada wet meadows 



This study was funded by the Kearney Foundation of Soil Science, the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources analytical lab advisory committee, and the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. We thank Alex Janicki, soil scientist, and Jim Frazier, forest hydrologist, at the Stanislaus National Forest for help with the meadow classification and selection. Also thanks to Timothy Doane, Mary Innes, Jocelyn Glatthaar, Heather Enloe and Zachary Faulkner for their field and laboratory support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jay B. Norton
    • 1
  • Laura J. Jungst
    • 2
  • Urszula Norton
    • 3
  • Hayley R. Olsen
    • 1
  • Kenneth W. Tate
    • 4
  • William R. Horwath
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Renewable ResourcesUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA
  2. 2.Helena National ForestHelenaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Plant SciencesUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA
  4. 4.Department of Plant ScienceUniversity of California DavisDavisUSA
  5. 5.Department of Land, Air, and Water ResourcesUniversity of California DavisDavisUSA

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