Carbon storage potential and seasonal dynamics of phytolith from different vegetation types in a subtropical region, China

  • Yufei Yang
  • Fei Wang
  • Jing Jin
  • Shuanglin Hu
  • Yang GaoEmail author
Research Article


Terrestrial biogeochemical silicon (Si) and carbon (C) cycles couple through various processes, such as silicate weathering and the dynamics resulting from different phytolith assemblages. For example, small amounts of organic C (typically ranging from 0.2 to 5.8%) can be occluded during phytolith formation. Phytoliths play an important role in coupled Si and C cycles. In this study, we analyzed variations in C sequestration and the seasonal dynamics of phytoliths formed in different vegetation types in order to clarify the processes and characteristics of phytolith-occluded-carbon (PhytOC) cycles. Firstly, we measured the variation range of phytolith content in the litter and soil of different vegetation types at 11.87–151.90 and 1.81–14.72 g kg−1, respectively, while we measured the corresponding variation range of PhytOC content at 3.58–24.13 and 0.04–0.65 g kg−1, respectively. We also found that seasonal changes in phytolith and PhytOC content were significant (P < 0.01), both exhibiting a significant decreasing trend from litter to soil and from the surface soil to 0–60 cm of soil layers. Secondly, we measured the variation range of PhytOC storage in the litter and soil (0–60 cm) of different vegetation types at 1.26–6.89 and 28.24–75.2 t, respectively. Finally, our study determined the contribution of PhytOC storage in soil (0.42%) compared with conventionally recognized soil C sequestration storage (0.64%). The phytolith C pool is an important component of the forest ecosystem C pool, which plays a critical role in mitigating global warming.


Silicon cycling Carbon cycling Phytolith PhytOC 



The authors thank all anonymous reviewers for their helpful remarks and Prof. Doonan Brian for his help in writing this paper and providing useful suggestions.

Funding information

This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41871080 and 51178439) and National Key Research & Development Program of China (2016YFE0127800).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Environmental Criteria and Risk AssessmentChinese Research Academy of Environmental SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchCASBeijingChina
  3. 3.Beijing GeoEnviron Engineering & Technology Inc.BeijingChina
  4. 4.Chuanghuan International Environmental Technology Co., Ltd.BeijingChina

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