Long-term effects of management history on carbon dynamics in agricultural soils in Northwest China

  • F. ZhangEmail author
  • C. Li
  • Z. Wang
  • X. Li
Original Article


Human activities and climate change have substantial effects on soil ecosystems. The historical variations in soil organic carbon (SOC) in Northwest China were investigated in this paper. Using an agro-ecosystems database, a process-based model, Denitrification-Decomposition (DNDC), was used to support a regional SOC simulation. Over the 1980s and 1990s, the SOC storage (0–50 cm) reduced slightly from 1.25 PgC (pentagrams of carbon, 1 PgC = 1015 gC) and stabilized at 1.23 PgC. SOC significantly differed in Northwest China farmland both temporally and spatially. Climatic variability magnified the response of the spatially heterogeneous region to climate and greatly influenced the vegetation and soil. The SOC increase appeared in areas with a mild and humid climate in the east, including Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia and south Xinjiang. Management practices greatly affect SOC dynamics through straw C input, increased 46.31 % C budget and 20.52 % total SOC (TSOC) through 60 % crop residue incorporation. Reducing human disturbance to the surface soil through conservative tillage and improving soil fertility through reasonable nutrient input and water-use efficiency have important implications for C sequestration, emission reduction and soil productivity improvement in arid or semiarid agricultural farmland regions.


Soil organic carbon Crop management DNDC 



We thank Stanley Glidden for the MERRA data and Steve Frolking for the helpful comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by NSFC grant 41301213, the key Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KZZD-EW-04) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central University.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Science and Technology, School of Human Settlements and Civil EngineeringXi’an Jiaotong UniversityXi’anChina
  2. 2.Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and SpaceUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, IEECASXi’anChina

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