Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 72, Issue 12, pp 5113–5122 | Cite as

Soil carbon and nitrogen in the active layers of the permafrost regions in the Three Rivers’ Headstream

  • Guanglu Hu
  • Hongbing Fang
  • Guimin Liu
  • Lin Zhao
  • Tonghua Wu
  • Ren Li
  • Xiaodong Wu
Original Article


The pedogenesis, soil organic carbon (SOC), soil inorganic carbon (SIC), hot water-soluble organic carbon (WSOC) and total nitrogen (TN) of the active layers were examined beneath four typical vegetation communities in the permafrost regions in the Three Rivers’ Headstream region in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. In all soil areas, except for in the steppe, the SOC and TN showed rapidly decreasing trends with increasing depth. The highest SOC, WSOC and TN contents were found in the wet meadow, with contents in the eluviate layer being 180.9, 40.2 and 10.9 g kg−1, respectively. In the steppe, the average SOC, WSOC and TN at 180 cm depth were 6.2, 0.67 and 0.59 g kg−1, respectively. The SIC contents showed increasing trends with increasing depth in the soils of the steppe community. The correlation analysis suggested that the moisture and fine particle fractions positively correlated to SOC, TN and WSOC, while bulk density and pH negatively correlated to SOC, TN and WSOC. The SOC and TN were significantly related to bulk density. The SIC was positively correlated with pH but negatively correlated with SOC, TN and WSOC. The C/N ratios were negatively correlated with pH while positively correlated with SOC, TN and fine soil particles. The results suggest that the SOC in the wet meadow soils in the permafrost regions of Qinghai-Tibetan have the largest potential contributions to the emissions of greenhouse gases and cause future global warming.


Soil organic carbon Total nitrogen Three Rivers’ Headstream Permafrost Soil inorganic carbon Vegetation communities 



This work was financially supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program) (2010CB951402) and the Science Fund for Creative Research Groups of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41121001). This work was also supported in part by the Fund of the State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Science (SKLCS-ZZ-2012-03-01) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41161082, 41261002, 41101524).  We acknowledge the West Light Foundation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Foundation for Excellent Youth Scholars of Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences. We gratefully acknowledge the anonymous reviewers, as well as the Editors for their constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guanglu Hu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hongbing Fang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Guimin Liu
    • 1
  • Lin Zhao
    • 2
  • Tonghua Wu
    • 2
  • Ren Li
    • 2
  • Xiaodong Wu
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Environmental and Municipal EngineeringLanzhou Jiaotong UniversityLanzhouChina
  2. 2.Cryosphere Research Station on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric SciencesCold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina

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