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Effect of water erosion and cultivation on the soil carbon stock in a semiarid area of South-East Spain

AuthorsMartínez-Mena García, M. Dolores ; López, J.; Almagro, María ; Boix-Fayos, Carolina ; Albaladejo Montoro, Juan
Soil organic carbon
Eroded organic carbon
Particulate organic carbon
Semi-arid areas
Issue DateApr-2008
CitationSoil and Tillage Research 99(1): 119-129 (2008)
AbstractAn experiment to evaluate the impact of water erosion and cultivation on the soil carbon dynamic and carbon stock in a semiarid area of South-East Spain was carried out. The study was performed under three different land use scenarios: (1) forest; (2) abandoned agricultural field; and (3) non-irrigated olive grove. Experimental erosion plots (in olive grove and forest) and sediment traps (in the abandoned area) were used to determine the carbon pools associated with sediments and runoff after each event occurring between September 2005 and November 2006. Change in land use from forest to cultivated enhanced the risk of erosion (total soil loss in olive cropland seven-fold higher than in the forest area) and reduced the soil carbon stock (in the top 5 cm) by about 50%. Mineral-associated organic carbon (MOC) represented the main C pool in the three study areas although its contribution to soil organic carbon (SOC) was significantly higher in the disturbed areas (78.91 ± 1.81% and 77.29 ± 1.21% for abandoned and olive area, respectively) than in the forest area (66.05 ± 3.11%). In both, the olive and abandoned soils, the reduction in particulate organic carbon (POC) was proportionally greater than the decline in MOC. The higher degree of sediment production in the olive cropland had an important consequence in terms of the carbon losses induced by erosion compared to the abandoned and forest plots. Thus, the total OC lost by erosion in the sediments was around three times higher in the cultivated (5.12 g C m−2) than the forest plot (1.77 g C m−2). The abandoned area displayed similar OC losses as a result of erosion as the forest plot (in the measurement period: 2.07 g C m−2, 0.63 g C m−2 and 0.65 g C m−2 for olive, forest and abandoned area, respectively). MOC represented the highest percentage of contribution to total sediment OC for all the events analysed and in all uses being, in general these values higher in Olive (74–90%) than in the other two areas (55–80%). The organic carbon lost was basically linked to the solid phase in the three land uses, although the contribution of DOC to total carbon loss by erosion varied widely with each event. Data from this study show that the more labile OC fraction (POC) lost in soil in the cultivated area was mainly due to the effect of cultivation (low overall biomass production and residue return together with high C mineralization) rather than to water erosion, given that the major part of the OC lost in sediments was in the form of MOC.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.still.2008.01.009
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