Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 265–277 | Cite as

Land use and climate change impacts on soil organic carbon stocks in semi-arid Spain

  • Juan Albaladejo
  • Roque Ortiz
  • Noelia Garcia-Franco
  • Antonio Ruiz Navarro
  • Maria Almagro
  • Javier Garcia Pintado
  • Maria Martínez-MenaEmail author



The sensitivity of soil organic carbon to global change drivers, according to the depth profile, is receiving increasing attention because of its importance in the global carbon cycle and its potential feedback to climate change. A better knowledge of the vertical distribution of SOC and its controlling factors—the aim of this study—will help scientists predict the consequences of global change.

Materials and methods

The study area was the Murcia Province (S.E. Spain) under semiarid Mediterranean conditions. The database used consists of 312 soil profiles collected in a systematic grid, each 12 km2 covering a total area of 11,004 km2. Statistical analysis to study the relationships between SOC concentration and control factors in different soil use scenarios was conducted at fixed depths of 0–20, 20–40, 40–60, and 60–100 cm.

Results and discussion

SOC concentration in the top 40 cm ranged between 6.1 and 31.5 g kg−1, with significant differences according to land use, soil type and lithology, while below this depth, no differences were observed (SOC concentration 2.1–6.8 g kg−1). The ANOVA showed that land use was the most important factor controlling SOC concentration in the 0–40 cm depth. Significant differences were found in the relative importance of environmental and textural factors according to land use and soil depth. In forestland, mean annual precipitation and texture were the main predictors of SOC, while in cropland and shrubland, the main predictors were mean annual temperature and lithology. Total SOC stored in the top 1 m in the region was about 79 Tg with a low mean density of 7.18 kg Cm−3. The vertical distribution of SOC was shallower in forestland and deeper in cropland. A reduction in rainfall would lead to SOC decrease in forestland and shrubland, and an increase of mean annual temperature would adversely affect SOC in croplands and shrubland. With increasing depth, the relative importance of climatic factors decreases and texture becomes more important in controlling SOC in all land uses.


Due to climate change, impacts will be much greater in surface SOC, the strategies for C sequestration should be focused on subsoil sequestration, which was hindered in forestland due to bedrock limitations to soil depth. In these conditions, sequestration in cropland through appropriate management practices is recommended.


Carbon sequestration potential Control factors of soil organic carbon Impact of global change Vertical distribution of soil organic carbon 



This research was supported by The Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, National Plan I+ D+ i 2008–2011 (Project AGL2010-20941) and Project 08757/PI/08, Murcia Regional Government (SENECA Foundation).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan Albaladejo
    • 1
  • Roque Ortiz
    • 2
  • Noelia Garcia-Franco
    • 1
  • Antonio Ruiz Navarro
    • 1
  • Maria Almagro
    • 1
  • Javier Garcia Pintado
    • 1
  • Maria Martínez-Mena
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Soil and Water Conservation DepartmentCEBAS-CSIC (Spanish Research Council)MurciaSpain
  2. 2.Agricultural Chemistry, Geology and Soil Science DepartmentMurcia UniversityMurciaSpain

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