Characteristics of soil organic carbon and total nitrogen under various grassland types along a transect in a mountain-basin system in Xinjiang, China

Abstract

Soil organic carbon (SOC) and soil total nitrogen (STN) in arid regions are important components of global C and the N cycles, and their response to climate change will have important implications for both ecosystem processes and global climate feedbacks. Grassland ecosystems of Funyun County in the southern foot of the Altay Mountains are characterized by complex topography, suggesting large variability in the spatial distribution of SOC and STN. However, there has been little investigation of SOC and STN on grasslands in arid regions with a mountain-basin structure. Therefore, we investigated the characteristics of SOC and STN in different grassland types in a mountain-basin system at the southern foot of the Altai Mountains, north of the Junggar Basin in China, and explored their potential influencing factors and relationships with meteorological factors and soil properties. We found that the concentrations and storages of SOC and STN varied significantly with grassland type, and showed a decreasing trend along a decreasing elevation gradient in alpine meadow, mountain meadow, temperate typical steppe, temperate steppe desert, and temperate steppe desert. In addition, the SOC and STN concentrations decreased with depth, except in the temperate desert steppe. According to Pearson's correlation values and redundancy analysis, the mean annual precipitation, soil moisture content and soil available N concentration were significantly positively correlated with the SOC and STN concentrations. In contrast, the mean annual temperature, pH, and soil bulk density were significantly and negatively correlated with the SOC and STN concentrations. The mean annual precipitation and mean annual temperature were the primary factors related to the SOC and STN concentrations. The distributions of the SOC and STN concentrations were highly regulated by the elevation-induced differences in meteorological factors. Mean annual precipitation and mean annual temperature together explained 97.85% and 98.38% of the overall variations in the SOC and STN concentrations, respectively, at soil depth of 0–40 cm, with precipitation making the greatest contribution. Our results provide a basis for estimating and predicting SOC and STN concentrations in grasslands in arid regions with a mountain-basin structure.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the National Science and Technology Support Program of China (2014BAC15B04). The authors are grateful to all of the staff at the Fuyun Grassland Ecology Station for their assistance in site selection and field measurements. We would also like to thank GUO Jia for his helpful comments on this manuscript.

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Bi, X., Li, B., Nan, B. et al. Characteristics of soil organic carbon and total nitrogen under various grassland types along a transect in a mountain-basin system in Xinjiang, China. J. Arid Land 10, 612–627 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-018-0006-1

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Keywords

  • mountain-basin system
  • grassland types
  • soil organic carbon
  • soil total nitrogen
  • meteorological factors
  • soil properties