Accumulation of soil organic carbon during natural restoration of desertified grassland in China’s Horqin Sandy Land

Abstract

China’s Horqin Sandy Land, a formerly lush grassland, has experienced extensive desertification that caused considerable carbon (C) losses from the plant-soil system. Natural restoration through grazing exclusion is a widely suggested option to sequester C and to restore degraded land. In a desertified grassland, we investigated the C accumulation in the total and light fractions of the soil organic matter from 2005 to 2013 during natural restoration. To a depth of 20 cm, the light fraction organic carbon (LFOC) storage increased by 221 g C/m2 (84%) and the total soil organic carbon (SOC) storage increased by 435 g C/m2 (55%). The light fraction dry matter content represented a small proportion of the total soil mass (ranging from 0.74% in 2005 to 1.39% in 2013), but the proportion of total SOC storage accounted for by LFOC was remarkable (ranging from 33% to 40%). The C sequestration averaged 28 g C/(m2·a) for LFOC and 54 g C/(m2·a) for total SOC. The total SOC was strongly and significantly positively linearly related to the light fraction dry matter content and the proportions of fine sand and silt+clay. The light fraction organic matter played a major role in total SOC sequestration. Our results suggest that grazing exclusion can restore desertified grassland and has a high potential for sequestering SOC in the semiarid Horqin Sandy Land.

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Li, Y., Zhao, X., Zhang, F. et al. Accumulation of soil organic carbon during natural restoration of desertified grassland in China’s Horqin Sandy Land. J. Arid Land 7, 328–340 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-014-0045-1

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Keywords

  • carbon storage
  • carbon sequestration
  • soil light fraction
  • restoration
  • grazing exclusion