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Organic carbon and nitrogen losses influenced by vegetation removal in a semiarid mediterranean soil

AuthorsMartínez-Mena García, M. Dolores ; Álvarez-Rogel, José; Castillo Sánchez, Victor Manuel; Albaladejo Montoro, Juan
Organic carbon
Vegetation removal
Water erosion
Issue DateDec-2002
CitationBiogeochemistry 61(3): 309-321 (2002)
AbstractA reduction in plant cover can lead to an increase in the erosionprocesses that diminish soil quality. Any rise in temperature resulting frompredicted climate changes may aggravate this effect, particularly in semiaridMediterranean areas. Bearing this in mind, the capacity of a soil to preserveorganic matter becomes very important if the soil is to maintain its physicaland chemical properties. Soil organic carbon and nitrogen changes wereevaluatedin a non-disturbed (with natural vegetation) and a disturbed (all vegetationmanually clipped to ground level) pine system. Nine years after vegetationremoval significant differences (p < 0.01) were found in the soil organiccarbon content between plots (top 20 cm), but not in totalnitrogen. In the disturbed plot 0.0232 Mg ha–1y–1 of soil organic carbon were lost through erosionand4.30 Mg ha–1 y–1 throughmineralization. In the first 48 months after vegetation removal the soilorganiccarbon content fell from 40.3 to 28.0 g kg–1. Inthe last 60 months of the experiment the amount of organic carbon in the soilfell from 28.0 to 27.7 g kg–1. This result wasmainly attributable to the intense oxidization, which took place during thefirst 60 months, of organic matter linked to the coarse soil mineral fraction.Up to the 72nd month the losses by erosion were a total of 532.7g, which rose to 1284.4 g by the end of theexperiment(108 months). The effect of vegetation removal in a Mediterranean semiarid arealeads to a rapid decline in the amount of organic carbon stored in the soil.Such perturbation is irreversible if left to nature.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1020257208048
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