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Conventional tillage improves the storage of soil organic carbon in heavy fractions in the Loess Plateau, China

Abstract

Soil labile organic carbon (C) plays an important role in improving soil quality. The relatively stable fractions of soil organic C (SOC) represent the bulk of SOC, and are also the primary determinant of the long-term C balance of terrestrial ecosystems. Different land use types can influence the distribution patterns of different SOC fractions. However, the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. In the present study, different fractions of SOC were determined in two land use types: a grazed grassland (established on previously cultivated cropland 25 years ago, GG) and a long-term cultivated millet cropland (MC). The results showed that C concentration and C storage of light fractions (LF) and heavy fractions (HF) presented different patterns along the soil profiles in the two sites. More plant residues in GG resulted in 91.9% higher LF storage at the 0–10 cm soil depth, further contributed to 21.9% higher SOC storage at this soil depth; SOC storage at 20–60 cm soil depth in MC was 98.8% higher than that in GG, which could be mainly attributed to the HF storage 104.5% higher than in GG. This might be caused by the long-term application of organic manure, as well as the protection from plough pan and silt- and clay-sized particles. The study indicated that different soil management practices in this region can greatly influence the variations of different SOC fractions, while the conventional tillage can greatly improve the storage of SOC by increasing heavy fractions.

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Correspondence to Hua Fu.

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The first and second authors contributed equally to this work.

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Han, H., Li, X., Niu, D. et al. Conventional tillage improves the storage of soil organic carbon in heavy fractions in the Loess Plateau, China. J. Arid Land 7, 636–643 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-015-0008-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-015-0008-1

Keywords

  • land use
  • soil organic carbon
  • heavy fraction organic carbon
  • light fraction organic carbon
  • particle size distribution