Soil organic carbon dynamics in Xilingol grassland of northern China induced by the Beijing-Tianjin Sand Source Control Program

Abstract

To mitigate impacts of sandstorms on northern China, the Chinese government launched the Beijing–Tianjin Sand Source Control Program (BTSSCP) in 2000. The associated practices (i.e., cultivation, enclosure, and aerial seeding) were expected to greatly enhance grassland carbon sequestration. However, the BTSSCP-induced soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics remain elusive at a regional level. Using the Xilingol League in Inner Mongolia for a case study, we examined the impacts from 2000 to 2006 of the BTSSCP on SOC stocks using the IPCC carbon budget inventory method. Results indicated that over all practices SOC storage increased by 1.7%, but there were large differences between practices. SOC increased most rapidly at the rate of 0.3 Mg C·ha–1·yr–1 under cultivation, but decreased significantly under aerial seeding with moderate or heavy grazing (0.3 vs.0.6 Mg C·ha–1·yr–1). SOC increases varied slightly for grassland types, ranging from 0.10 Mg C·ha–1·yr–1 for temperate desert steppe to 0.16 Mg C·ha–1·yr–1 for temperate meadow steppe and lowland meadow. The overall economic benefits of the SOC sink were estimated to be 4.0 million CNY. Aerial seeding with no grazing was found to be the most cost-effective practice. Finally, we indicated that at least 55.5 years (shortest for cultivation) were needed for the grasslands to reach their potential carbon stocks. Our findings highlight the importance and effectiveness of BTSSCP in promoting terrestrial carbon sequestration which may help mitigate climate change, and further stress the need for more attention to the effectiveness of specific practices.

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Acknowledgements

This work has been financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41601196), the National Science and Technology Support Project (2013BAC03B04), and the Chinese Academy of Sciences Action Plan for the Development of Western China (KZCX2-XB3-08-01). We thank the Inner Mongolia Rangeland Survey Institute for providing the annual implementation area data of the main grassland management practices in the Xilingol League. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments to improve this manuscript. We also thank Dr. Warwick Harris (Research Associate, Landcare Research, New Zealand) for his effort to improve the text.

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Zhang, L., Cao, W. & Fan, J. Soil organic carbon dynamics in Xilingol grassland of northern China induced by the Beijing-Tianjin Sand Source Control Program. Front. Earth Sci. 11, 407–415 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11707-016-0589-9

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Keywords

  • grassland carbon sequestration
  • ecological restoration
  • Beijing-Tianjin Sand Source Control Program (BTSSCP)
  • IPCC carbon budget inventory method