Comparison of topsoil organic carbon and total nitrogen in different flood-risk riparian zones in a Chinese Karst area

Original Article


Riparian zones play a significant role in the soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration to mitigate the increasing atmospheric CO2. SOC storages vary spatially within and among riparian soils by the influence of multiple unique biotic and biophysical landscape characteristics. Understanding the distribution characteristics of SOC from the water’s edge to the upland is essential to effectively assess SOC storage and the function of carbon sink of riparian zones. In this study, the goals were to quantify the SOC density (SOCD) and total nitrogen content (TN) (0–20 cm of topsoil) in different flood-risk riparian zones of the Lijiang River [frequently flooded zones (FFz) (flood frequency ≥3 times/year), seldom flooded zones (SFz) (flood <3 times/year) and adjacent uplands (AU)], which are located in a typical karst geomorphology region, and to assess the contribution of soil texture, plant litter and soil pH to SOCD variation. The results of a soil survey of typical riparian areas (N = 15) showed that the average SOCD and TN content were 31.52 ± 13.25 Mg/ha and 0.094 ± 0.043 %, respectively, in the entire riparian zone (0–20 cm of topsoil). Compared with the SOCD in AU (19.98 ± 3.06 Mg/ha), the SOCD of FFz and SFz was significantly higher by 70.92 and 49.70 % (p < 0.05), respectively. Stepwise regression analyses indicated that soil texture was the most important factor that influenced the SOCD variation (0–20 cm of topsoil) in FFz, which could account for 67 % of the SOCD variation, while plant litter was the most important factor in SFz, which could account for 80 % of the SOCD variation. Lastly, our findings indicate that riparian zones have more SOC storages than adjacent uplands in the Lijiang River. Therefore, the exploitation of riparian zones for agricultural purposes may weaken the function of riparian on the SOC sequestration.


Riparian Soil organic carbon Soil nitrogen Soil texture Plant litter Inundation 



Soil organic carbon


Soil organic carbon density


Total nitrogen content


Frequently flooded zones


Seldom flooded zones


Adjacent uplands



This study was financially supported by Key Projects in the National Science and Technology Pillar Program of China during the Twelfth Five-year Plan Period (2012BAC16B03).


  1. Bai JH, Hua OY, Wei D, Zhu YM, Zhang XL, Wang QG (2005) Spatial distribution characteristics of organic matter and total nitrogen of marsh soils in river marginal wetlands. Geoderma 124:181–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bechtold JS, Naiman RJ (2006) Soil texture and nitrogen mineralization potential across a riparian toposequence in a semi-arid savanna. Soil Biol Biochem 38:1325–1333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bedison JE, Scatena FN, Mead JV (2013) Influences on the spatial pattern of soil carbon and nitrogen in forested and non–forested riparian zones in the Atlantic Coastal Plain of the Delaware River Basin. For Ecol Manag 302:200–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beniston JW, Tianna DuPont S, Glover JD (2014) Soil organic carbon dynamics 75 years after land-use change in perennial grassland and annual wheat agricultural systems. Biogeochemistry 120:37–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blazejewski J, Stolt MH, Gold AJ, Gurwick N, Groffman PM (2009) Spatial distribution of carbon in the subsurface of riparian zones. Soil Sci Soc Am J 73:1733–1740CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bouyoucos GJ (1962) Hydrometer method improved for making particle size analyses of soils. Agron J 54:464–465CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brady NC, Weil RR (2008) The nature and properties of soils, fourteenth edn. Pearson, ColumbusGoogle Scholar
  8. Bullinger-Weber G, Le Bayon R-C, Thébault A, Schlaepfer R, Guenat C (2014) Carbon storage and soil organic matter stabilisation in near-natural, restored and embanked Swiss floodplains. Geoderma 228–229:122–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cabezas A, Comín FA (2010) Carbon and nitrogen accretion in the topsoil of the middle Ebro River floodplains (NE Spain): implications for their ecological restoration. Ecol Eng 36:640–652CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carter MR, Gregorich EG (2008) Soil sampling and methods of analysis. Canadian society of soil science, 2nd edn. Lewis Publishers, Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  11. Chen QW, Yang QY, Li RN, Ma JF (2013) Spring micro-distribution of macroinvertebrate in relation to hydro-environmental factors in the Lijiang River, China. J Hydroenviron Res 7:103–112Google Scholar
  12. Cheng GW, Wang DQ (1998) The water problems and control countermeasures of Lijiang River. Chin J Carsol Sin 17:351–356 (in Chinese with English abstract) Google Scholar
  13. Cierjacks A, Kleinschmit B, Kowarik I, Graf M, Lang F (2010a) Organic matter distribution in floodplains can be predicted using spatial and vegetation structure data. River Res Appl 27:1048–1057CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cierjacks A, Kleinschmit B, Babinsky M, Kleinschroth F, Markert A, Menzel M, Ziechmann U, Schiller T, Graf M, Lang F (2010b) Carbon stocks of soil and vegetation on Danubian floodplains. J Plant Nutr Soil Sci 173:644–653CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dai FQ, Su ZG, Liu SZ, Liu GC (2011) Temporal variation of soil organic matter content and potential determinants in Tibet, China. Catena 85:288–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. de Klein JJM, van der Werf AK (2014) Balancing carbon sequestration and GHG emissions in a constructed wetland. Ecol Eng 66:36–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dong GT, Yang ST, Gao YF, Bai J, Wang XL, Zheng DH (2014) Spatial evaluation of phosphorus retention in riparian zones using remote sensing data. Environ Earth Sci 72:1643–1657CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Drouin A, Saint-Laurent D, Lavoie L, Ouellet C (2011) High-precision elevation model to evaluate the spatial distribution of soil organic carbon in active floodplains. Wetlands 31:1151–1164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Falkowski P, Scholes RJ, Boyle E, Canadell J, Canfield D, Elser J, Gruber N, Hibbard K, Högberg P, Linder S, Mackenzie FT, Moore B, Pedersen T, Rosenthal Y, Seitzinger S, Smetacek V, Steffen W (2000) The global carbon cycle: a test of our knowledge of earth as a system. Science 290:291–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Farnleitner AH, Ryzinska-Paier G, Reischer GH, Burtscher MM, Knetsch S, Kirschner AKT, Dirnböck T, Kuschnig G, Mach RL (2010) Escherichia coli and enterococci are sensitive and reliable indicators for human, livestock and wildlife faecal pollution in alpine mountainous water resources. J Appl Microbiol 109:1599–1608Google Scholar
  21. Fortier J, Truax B, Gagnon D, Lambert F (2015) Biomass carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus stocks in hybrid poplar buffers, herbaceous buffers and natural woodlots in the riparian zone on agricultural land. J Environ Manag 154:333–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Franzluebbers AJ (2002) Soil organic matter stratification ratio as an indicator of soil quality. Soil Tillage Res 66:95–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gee GW, Or D (2002) 2.4 Particle-size analysis. In: Methods of soil analysis: part 4 physical methods, pp 255–293Google Scholar
  24. Gervais-Beaulac V, Saint-Laurent D, Sébastien Berthelot J, Mesfioui M (2013) Organic carbon distribution in alluvial soils according to different flood risk zones. J Soil Sci Environ Manag 4:169–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Grandy AS, Strickland MS, Lauber CL, Brandford MA, Fierer N (2009) The influence of microbial communities, management, and soil texture on organic matter chemistry. Geoderma 150:278–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Guo LB, Gifford RM (2002) Soil carbon stocks and land use change: a meta-analysis. Glob Change Biol 8:345–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Högberg MN, Högberg P, Myrold DD (2007) Is microbial community composition in boreal forest soils determined by pH, C-to-N ratio, the trees, or all three? Oecologia 150:590–601CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Huang YQ, Cheng YP (2008) Study on sediment concentration variation in Lijiang River basin. Chin J Sediment Res pp 58–62. (in Chinese with English abstract) Google Scholar
  29. Institute of Soil Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences (ISSCAS) (1978) Physical and chemical analysis methods of soil. Shanghai Science Technology Press, Shanghai, pp 7–15Google Scholar
  30. Jackson RB, Canadell J, Ehleringer JR, Mooney HA, Sala OE, Schulze ED (1996) A global analysis of root distributions for terrestrial biomes. Oecologia 108:389–411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jin J, Zimmerman AR, Martin JB, Khadka MB (2015) Spatiotemporal variations in carbon dynamics during a low flow period in a carbonate Karst watershed: Santa Fe River, Florida, USA. Biogeochemistry 122:131–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jindaluang W, Kheoruenromne I, Suddhiprakarn A, Singh BP, Singh B (2013) Influence of soil texture and mineralogy on organic matter content and composition in physically separated fractions soils of Thailand. Geoderma 195–196:207–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Khadka MB, Martin JB, Jin J (2014) Transport of dissolved carbon and CO2 degassing from a river system in a mixed silicate and carbonate catchment. J Hydrol 513:391–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Laganière J, Angers DA, Paré D (2010) Carbon accumulation in agricultural soils after afforestation: a meta-analysis. Glob Change Biol 16:439–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Li DJ, Niu SL, Luo YQ (2012) Global patterns of the dynamics of soil carbon and nitrogen stocks following afforestation: a meta-analysis. New Phytol 195:172–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Liu ZH, Dreybrodt W, Liu H (2011) Atmospheric CO2 sink: silicate weathering or carbonate weathering? Appl Geochem 26:S292–S294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Liu YG, Liu CC, Wang SJ, Guo K, Yang J, Zhang XS, Li GQ (2013) Organic carbon storage in four ecosystem types in the karst region of southwestern China. PLoS ONE 8:e56443. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056443 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Luo YQ, Hui DF, Zhang DQ (2006) Elevated CO2 stimulates net accumulations of carbon and nitrogen in land ecosystems: a meta-analysis. Ecology 87:53–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mitsch WJ, Bernal B, Nahlik AM, Mander Ü, Zhang L, Anderson CJ, Jørgensen SE, Brix H (2012) Wetlands, carbon, and climate change. Landsc Ecol 28:583–597CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mitsch WJ, Zhang L, Waletzko E, Bernal B (2014) Validation of the ecosystem services of created wetlands: two decades of plant succession, nutrient retention, and carbon sequestration in experimental riverine marshes. Ecol Eng 77:11–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Naiman RJ, Decamps H (1997) The ecology of interfaces: riparian zones. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 28:621–658CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nelson DW, Sommers LE (1982) Total carbon, organic carbon, and organic matter. In: Page AL, Miller RH, Keeney DR (eds) Methods of soil analysis, Part 2, chemical and microbial properties. Agronomy Society of America, Agronomy Monograph 9, Madison, pp 539–552Google Scholar
  43. Pearson AJ, Pizzuto JE, Vargas R (2016) Influence of run of river dams on floodplain sediments and carbon dynamics. Geoderma 272:51–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Qin YB, Xin ZB, Yu XX, Xiao YL (2014) Influence of vegetation restoration on topsoil organic carbon in a small catchment of the loess hilly region, China. PLoS ONE 9(6):e94489. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094489 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ricker MC, Stolt MH, Donohue SW, Blazejewski GA, Zavada MS (2013) Soil organic carbon pools in riparian landscapes of southern New England. Soil Sci Soc Am J 77:1070–1079CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ricker MC, Stolt MH, Zavada MS (2014) Comparison of soil organic carbon dynamics in forested riparian wetlands and adjacent uplands. Soil Sci Soc Am J 78:1817–1827CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rieger I, Lang F, Kowarik I, Cierjacks A (2014) The interplay of sedimentation and carbon accretion in riparian forests. Geomorphology 214:157–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ritchie JC, McCarty GW (2003) 137Cesium and soil carbon in a small agricultural watershed. Soil Tillage Res 69:45–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rivera LW, Aide TM (1998) Forest recovery in the karst region of Puerto Rico. For Ecol Manag 108:63–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ruiz-Sinoga JD, Pariente S, Diaz AR, Martinez Murillo JF (2012) Variability of relationships between soil organic carbon and some soil properties in Mediterranean rangelands under different climatic conditions (South of Spain). Catena 94:17–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Saint-Laurent D, Gervais-Beaulac V, Berthelot JS (2014a) Comparison of soil organic carbon and total nitrogen contents in inundated and non-inundated zones in southern Québec, Canada. Catena 113:1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Saint-Laurent D, Gervais-Beaulac V, Berthelot JS (2014b) Variability of soil properties in different flood-risk zones and link with hydroclimatic changes (Southern Québec, Canada). Geoderma 214–215:80–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Smith M, Conte P, Berns AE, Thomson JR, Cavagnaro TR (2012) Spatial patterns of, and environmental controls on, soil properties at a riparian-paddock interface. Soil Biol Biochem 49:38–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Springob G, Kirchmann H (2003) Bulk soil C to N ratio as a simple measure of net N mineralization from stabilized soil organic matter in sandy arable soils. Soil Biol Biochem 35:629–632CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sutfin NA, Wohl EE, Dwire KA (2016) Banking carbon: a review of organic carbon storage and physical factors influencing retention in floodplains and riparian ecosystems. Earth Surf Process Landf 41:38–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sutton-Grier AE, Ho M, Richardson CJ (2009) Organic amendments improve soil conditions and denitrification in a restored riparian wetland. Wetlands 29:343–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Vought LBM, Dahl J, Pedersen CL, Lacoursière JO (1994) Nutrient retention in riparian ecotones. Ambio 23:342–348Google Scholar
  58. Wang QC (2013) Water source change trend in the upper reach of Lijiang River basin above Guilin city. Chin Pearl River 2:13–16Google Scholar
  59. Wiens JA (2002) Riverine landscapes: taking landscape ecology into the water. Freshw Biol 47:501–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Xiong SJ, Nilsson C (1997) Dynamics of leaf litter accumulation and its effects on riparian vegetation: a review. Bot Rev 63:240–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Ye F, Chen Q, Li RN (2010) Modelling the riparian vegetation evolution due to flow regulation of Lijiang River by unstructured cellular automata. Ecol Inform 5:108–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Zhang D, Wang YH, Yu KF, Li PY, Xu YY (2014) Occurrence, distribution and sources of organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) in surface sediments from the Lijiang River, a typical karst river of southwestern China. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 93:580–585CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Soil and Water ConservationBeijing Forestry UniversityBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations