Changes and controlling factors of cropland soil organic carbon in North China Plain over a 30-year period

Abstract

Aims

Try to detect the spatiotemporal dynamics and the controlling factors of soil organic carbon (SOC) in the North China Plain (NCP) over the last 30 years: 1980s-2010s.

Methods

We investigated the SOC evolution by compiling data from 32 published papers during the last 30 years. Then we examined the spatial pattern and controlling factors by analysing a two-period sampling observations (1980s and 2010s) and multiple explanatory variables in four typical counties.

Results

Over the last 30 years, the agronomy environment and management practice have been dramatically improved, which have largely increased the crop yield and subsequently enhanced the C input into the soil, made NCP the most effective region for C sequestration in China, ranging from 5.55 ± 1.28 g kg−1 in the 1980s to 8.71 ± 1.22 g kg−1 in the 2010s, with an average rate of 0.11 g kg−1 year−1. The SOC change (SOCC) exhibited spatial heterogeneity due to imbalanced agricultural management (i.e., rotation and irrigation) and environmental obstacles (i.e., salinity and water deficit). The mean SOCC rate in Fengqiu and Yucheng (> +0.15 g kg−1 year−1, with rotation of winter wheat and summer maize, less water deficit and salinity stress) were significantly (P < 0.05) higher than that in Nanpi (< +0.10 g kg−1 year−1, with water deficit) and Kenli (< +0.10 g kg−1 year−1, cotton only, salinity stress).

Conclusions

SOC may continue to increase in the NCP through sustainable and efficient agricultural management, especially in low-yield region. Soils in the NCP will still act as a C sink well in the future.

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Abbreviations

SOC:

soil organic carbon

NCP:

North China Plain

NPP:

net primary production

TWI:

topographic wetness index

TOP:

topographic parameters

ASL:

above sea level

RMPs:

recommended management practices

MAT:

mean annual temperature

MAP:

mean annual precipitation.

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Acknowledgments

This research was sponsored by the “Strategic Priority Research Program - Climate Change: Carbon Budget and Related Issues” of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. XDA05050502). We thank the faculty of Yucheng comprehensive experimental station (CAS) for their excellent work of data collection and laboratory analysis. We are grateful to Dr. Xingliang Xu for constructive suggestions on this manuscript.

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Han, D., Sun, Z., Li, F. et al. Changes and controlling factors of cropland soil organic carbon in North China Plain over a 30-year period. Plant Soil 403, 437–453 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-016-2803-7

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Keywords

  • Huang-Huai-Hai Plain
  • Soil organic carbon change
  • Spatiotemporal pattern
  • C input
  • Recommended management practices