Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 322–331 | Cite as

Distribution and controlling factors of soil organic carbon storage in the northeast Tibetan shrublands

  • Xiuqing Nie
  • Yunfeng Peng
  • Fan Li
  • Lucun Yang
  • Feng Xiong
  • Changbin Li
  • Guoying ZhouEmail author
Soils, Sec 4 • Ecotoxicology • Research Article



Although large amounts of soil organic carbon (SOC) stored in the shrublands, information about SOC storage was little on the Tibetan Plateau. This study aims to evaluate the spatial patterns and storage of SOC in the shrublands and the relationships of climatic variables and soil pH on the Tibetan Plateau.

Materials and methods

We used 177 profiles of soil samples obtained from 59 shrubland sites on the northeast Tibetan Plateau from 2011 to 2013. Ordinary least squares regressions, curve estimation, and multiple linear regressions were used to evaluate controlling factors on SOC stock. Kriging interpolation was used to upscale sit-level measurements to the whole study area.

Results and discussion

We found that SOC storage in the northeast Tibetan shrublands was 1.36 Pg C in the top 1 m with an average SOC stock of 12.38 kg m−2. SOC stock decreased from east to west and south to north but generally increased significantly with the mean annual temperature (MAT) and the mean annual precipitation (MAP), and tended to decrease with soil pH. Although similar relationships were also observed in alpine shrublands, the trends among SOC stock, MAP, and MAT were not observed in desert shrublands. Our results indicate that a reduction in soil pH accelerates the C sequestration potential. Furthermore, global warming contributed to C sequestration in alpine shrublands, specifically, SOC stock increased 8.44 kg m−2 with an increased unit of MAT in alpine shrublands just considering temperature effects. Meanwhile, the C sequestration was different among different regions due to the uneven increases in precipitation. However, in desert shrublands, MAP and MAT did not significantly affect SOC stock.


The results indicate that though a reduction in soil pH could contribute to C sequestration, MAT and MAP have different effects on SOC stock in different Tibetan Plateau shrublands. Increased MAT and MAP were 0.05 °C and 1.67 mm every year on the Tibetan Plateau, which will increase C sequestration in alpine shrublands, but might have limited impacts on desert shrublands, which help us comprehend soil C cycling in the global climate change scenario.


Climatic factors Shrublands Tibetan Plateau Soil organic carbon Soil pH 



We thank Zebing Zhong, Hechun Liu and Yi Ning for facilitating our field surveys of the Tibetan Plateau (2011–2013) and providing laboratory assistance.

Funding information

This work was supported by the National Science and Technology Support Project (grant number 2014BAC05B01), National Basic Research Program of China (grant number 2015FY11030001-5), Strategic Priority Research Program of CAS (grant number XDA0505030304), and National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant number 40801076).

Supplementary material

11368_2018_2037_MOESM1_ESM.docx (27 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 26 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiuqing Nie
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Yunfeng Peng
    • 4
  • Fan Li
    • 5
  • Lucun Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Feng Xiong
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Changbin Li
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Guoying Zhou
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Tibetan Medicine Research, Northwest Institute of Plateau BiologyChinese Academy of ScienceXiningChina
  2. 2.Qinghai Key Laboratory of Qing-Tibet Biological ResourcesXiningChina
  3. 3.University of Chinese Academy of ScienceBeijingChina
  4. 4.State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of BotanyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  5. 5.Institute of Qinghai Meteorological Science ResearchXiningChina

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