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Concept: Subsoil


It has been suggested that conversion to organic farming contributes to soil carbon sequestration, but until now a comprehensive quantitative assessment has been lacking. Therefore, datasets from 74 studies from pairwise comparisons of organic vs. nonorganic farming systems were subjected to metaanalysis to identify differences in soil organic carbon (SOC). We found significant differences and higher values for organically farmed soils of 0.18 ± 0.06% points (mean ± 95% confidence interval) for SOC concentrations, 3.50 ± 1.08 Mg C ha(-1) for stocks, and 0.45 ± 0.21 Mg C ha(-1) y(-1) for sequestration rates compared with nonorganic management. Metaregression did not deliver clear results on drivers, but differences in external C inputs and crop rotations seemed important. Restricting the analysis to zero net input organic systems and retaining only the datasets with highest data quality (measured soil bulk densities and external C and N inputs), the mean difference in SOC stocks between the farming systems was still significant (1.98 ± 1.50 Mg C ha(-1)), whereas the difference in sequestration rates became insignificant (0.07 ± 0.08 Mg C ha(-1) y(-1)). Analyzing zero net input systems for all data without this quality requirement revealed significant, positive differences in SOC concentrations and stocks (0.13 ± 0.09% points and 2.16 ± 1.65 Mg C ha(-1), respectively) and insignificant differences for sequestration rates (0.27 ± 0.37 Mg C ha(-1) y(-1)). The data mainly cover top soil and temperate zones, whereas only few data from tropical regions and subsoil horizons exist. Summarizing, this study shows that organic farming has the potential to accumulate soil carbon.

Concepts: Agriculture, Soil, Charcoal, Organic farming, Humus, Input, Crop rotation, Subsoil


Soil plays a key role in the global carbon © cycle. Most current assessments of SOC stocks and the guidelines given by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) focus on the top 30 cm of soil. Our research shows that, when considering only total quantities, most of the SOC stocks are found in this top layer. However, not all forms of SOC are equally valuable as long-term stable stores of carbon: the majority of SOC is available for mineralisation and can potentially be re-emitted to the atmosphere. SOC associated with micro-aggregates and silt plus clay fractions is more stable and therefore represents a long-term carbon store. Our research shows that most of this stable carbon is located at depths below 30 cm (42% of subsoil SOC is located in microaggregates and silt and clay, compared to 16% in the topsoil), specifically in soils that are subject to clay illuviation. This has implications for land management decisions in temperate grassland regions, defining the trade-offs between primary productivity and C emissions in clay-illuviated soils, as a result of drainage. Therefore, climate smart land management should consider the balance between SOC stabilisation in topsoils for productivity versus sequestration in subsoils for climate mitigation.

Concepts: Climate, Soil, Erosion, Atmosphere, Steppe, Silt, Subsoil, Topsoil


Soils are Earth’s largest terrestrial carbon © pool, and their responsiveness to land use and management make them appealing targets for strategies to enhance C sequestration. Numerous studies have identified practices that increase soil C, but their inferences are often based on limited data extrapolated over large areas. Here, we combine 15,000 observations from two national-level databases with remote sensing information to address the impacts of reforestation on the sequestration of C in topsoils (uppermost mineral soil horizons). We quantify C stocks in cultivated, reforesting, and natural forest topsoils; rates of C accumulation in reforesting topsoils; and their contribution to the US forest C sink. Our results indicate that reforestation increases topsoil C storage, and that reforesting lands, currently occupying >500,000 km2in the United States, will sequester a cumulative 1.3-2.1 Pg C within a century (13-21 Tg C·y-1). Annually, these C gains constitute 10% of the US forest sector C sink and offset 1% of all US greenhouse gas emissions.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Soil, Sulfur, Greenhouse gas, Soil horizon, Subsoil, Deforestation, Topsoil


This study identifies natural and industrial lead remobilized in ash deposits from three bushfires in relatively pristine areas of Australia in 2011 using lead isotopic compositions ((208)Pb/(207)Pb; (206)Pb/(207)Pb). Lead concentrations in the ash ranged from 1 to 36 mg/kg, bracketing the range of lead (4-23 mg/kg) in surface soils (0-2 cm), subsurface (40-50 cm) soils and rocks. The lead isotopic compositions of ash and surface soil samples were compared to subsurface soils and local bedrock samples. The data show that many of the ash and surface soil lead isotopic compositions were a mixture of natural lead and legacy industrial lead depositions (such as leaded petrol combustion). However, some of the ash samples at each of the sites had lead isotopic compositions that did not fit a simple two end-member mixing model, indicating other, unidentified sources.

Concepts: Gasoline, Soil, Mixture, Zinc, Lead, Source, Lead poisoning, Subsoil


Forest soils store large amounts of carbon © and nitrogen (N), yet how predicted shifts in forest composition will impact long-term C and N persistence remains poorly understood. A recent hypothesis predicts that soils under trees associated with arbuscular mycorrhizas (AM) store less C than soils dominated by trees associated with ectomycorrhizas (ECM), due to slower decomposition in ECM-dominated forests. However, an incipient hypothesis predicts that systems with rapid decomposition - e.g., most AM-dominated forests - enhance soil organic matter (SOM) stabilization by accelerating the production of microbial residues. To address these contrasting predictions, we quantified soil C and N to 1 m depth across gradients of ECM-dominance in three temperate forests. By focusing on sites where AM- and ECM-plants co-occur, our analysis controls for climatic factors that co-vary with mycorrhizal dominance across broad scales. We found that while ECM stands contain more SOM in topsoil, AM stands contain more SOM when subsoil to 1 m depth is included. Biomarkers and soil fractionations reveal that these patterns are driven by an accumulation of microbial residues in AM-dominated soils. Collectively, our results support emerging theory on SOM formation, demonstrate the importance of subsurface soils in mediating plant effects on soil C and N, and indicate that shifts in the mycorrhizal composition of temperate forests may alter the stabilization of SOM. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Plant, Soil, Mycorrhiza, Arbuscular mycorrhiza, Nitrogen, Humus, Organic matter, Subsoil


The current theoretical framework suggests that tripartite positive feedback relationships between soil biodiversity, fertility and plant productivity are universal. However, empirical evidence for these relationships at the continental scale and across different soil depths is lacking. We investigate the continental-scale relationships between the diversity of microbial and invertebrate-based soil food webs, fertility and above-ground plant productivity at 289 sites and two soil depths, that is 0-10 and 20-30 cm, across Australia. Soil biodiversity, fertility and plant productivity are strongly positively related in surface soils. Conversely, in the deeper soil layer, the relationships between soil biodiversity, fertility and plant productivity weaken considerably, probably as a result of a reduction in biodiversity and fertility with depth. Further modeling suggested that strong positive associations among soil biodiversity-fertility and fertility-plant productivity are limited to the upper soil layer (0-10 cm), after accounting for key factors, such as distance from the equator, altitude, climate and physicochemical soil properties. These findings highlight the importance of surface soil biodiversity for soil fertility, and suggest that any loss of surface soil could potentially break the links between soil biodiversity-fertility and/or fertility-plant productivity, which can negatively impact nutrient cycling and food production, upon which future generations depend.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Biodiversity, Ecology, Nutrient, Soil, Ecosystem, Equator, Subsoil


Maintaining biotic capacity is of key importance with regard to global food and biomass provision. One reason for productivity loss is soil compaction. In this paper, we use a statistical empirical model to assess long-term yield losses through soil compaction in a regionalized manner, with global coverage and for different agricultural production systems. To facilitate the application of the model, we provide an extensive dataset including crop production data (with 81 crops and corresponding production systems), related machinery application, as well as regionalized soil texture and soil moisture data. Yield loss is modeled for different levels of soil depth (0-25cm, 25-40cm and >40cm depth). This is of particular relevance since compaction in topsoil is classified as reversible in the short term (approximately four years), while recovery of subsoil layers takes much longer. We derive characterization factors quantifying the future average annual yield loss as a fraction of the current yield for 100years and applicable in Life Cycle Assessment studies of agricultural production. The results show that crops requiring enhanced machinery inputs, such as potatoes, have a major influence on soil compaction and yield losses, while differences between mechanized production systems (organic and integrated production) are small. The spatial variations of soil moisture and clay content are reflected in the results showing global hotspot regions especially susceptible to soil compaction, e.g. the South of Brazil, the Caribbean Islands, Central Africa, and the Maharashtra district of India. The impacts of soil compaction can be substantial, with highest annual yield losses in the range of 0.5% (95% percentile) due to one year of potato production (cumulated over 100y this corresponds to a one-time loss of 50% of the present yield). These modeling results demonstrate the necessity for including soil compaction effects in Life Cycle Impact Assessment.

Concepts: Time, Agriculture, Evaluation, Soil, Term, Potato, Life cycle assessment, Subsoil


Although soils have a high potential to offset CO2emissions through its conversion into soil organic carbon (SOC) with long turnover time, it is widely accepted that there is an upper limit of soil stable C storage, which is referred to SOC saturation. In this study we estimate SOC saturation in French topsoil (0-30cm) and subsoil (30-50cm), using the Hassink equation and calculate the additional SOC sequestration potential (SOCsp) by the difference between SOC saturation and fine fraction C on an unbiased sampling set of sites covering whole mainland France. We then map with fine resolution the geographical distribution of SOCspover the French territory using a regression Kriging approach with environmental covariates. Results show that the controlling factors of SOCspdiffer from topsoil and subsoil. The main controlling factor of SOCsp in topsoils is land use. Nearly half of forest topsoils are over-saturated with a SOCspclose to 0 (mean and standard error at 0.19±0.12) whereas cropland, vineyard and orchard soils are largely unsaturated with degrees of C saturation deficit at 36.45±0.68% and 57.10±1.64%, respectively. The determinant of C sequestration potential in subsoils is related to parent material. There is a large additional SOCspin subsoil for all land uses with degrees of C saturation deficit between 48.52±4.83% and 68.68±0.42%. Overall the SOCsp for French soils appears to be very large (1008Mt C for topsoil and 1360Mt C for subsoil) when compared to previous total SOC stocks estimates of about 3.5Gt in French topsoil. Our results also show that overall, 176Mt C exceed C saturation in French topsoil and might thus be very sensitive to land use change.

Concepts: Soil, Charcoal, France, Land use, Humus, New Caledonia, Subsoil, Topsoil


Intensive phosphorus (P) inputs to plastic-covered greenhouse vegetable production (PGVP) in China has led to excessive soil P accumulation increasing the potential for leaching to surface waters. This study examined the mobility and hence the potential risk of P losses through correlations between soil solution P (PSol) and soil extractable P as determined by conventional soil P test methods (STPs) including degree of P saturations (DPSs), and diffusive gradient in thin-films (DGT P) technique. A total of 75 topsoil samples were chosen from five representative Chinese PGVPs covering a wide range of physiochemical soil properties and cultivation history. Total P and Olsen P contents varied from 260 to 4900, and 5 to 740mgkg-1, respectively, while PSolconcentrations were between 0.01 and 10.8mgL-1reflecting the large differences in vegetation history, fertilization schemes, and soil types. Overall, DGT P provided the best correlation with PSol(r2=0.97) demonstrating that DGT P is a versatile measure of P mobility regardless of soil type. Among the DPSs tested, oxalate extractable Al (DPSOx-Al) had the best correlation with PSol(r2=0.87). In the STP versus PSolrelationships, STP break-points above which P mobilization increases steeply were 513μgL-1and 190mgkg-1for DGT P or Olsen P, respectively, corresponding to PSolconcentration of 0.88mgL-1. However, for PSolconcentration of 0.1mgL-1that initiates eutrophication, the corresponding DGT P and Olsen P values were 27μgL-1and 22mgkg-1, respectively. Over 80% of the investigated soils had DGT P and Olsen P above these values, and thus are at risk of P mobilization threatening receiving waters by eutrophication. This paper demonstrates that the DGT extracted P is a powerful measure for soluble P and hence for assessment of P mobility from a broad range of soil types.

Concepts: Agriculture, Soil, Nitrogen, Correlation and dependence, Test method, Phosphorus, Subsoil, Soil classification


During COP 21 in Paris 2015, several states and organizations agreed on the “4/1000” initiative for food security and climate. This initiative aims to increase world’s soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks by 4‰ annually. The influence of soil development status on SOC dynamics is very important but usually not considered in studies. We analyse SOC accumulation under forest, grassland and cropping systems along a soil age gradient (10-17,000years) to show the influence of soil development status on SOC increase. SOC stocks (0-40cm) and accumulation rates along a chronosequence in alluvial soils of the Danube River in the Marchfeld (eastern Austria) were analysed. The analysed Fluvisols and Chernozems have been used as forest, grassland and cropland for decades or hundreds of years. The results showed that there is a fast build-up of OC stocks (0-40cm) in young soils with accumulation of ~1.3tha-1a-1OC in the first 100years and ~0.5tha-1a-1OC between 100 and 350years almost independent of land use. Chernozems with a sediment deposition age older than 5.000years have an accumulation rate<0.01tOCha-1a-1(0-40cm). Radiocarbon dating showed that the topsoil (0-10cm) consists mainly of ">modern" and “modern” carbon indicating a fast carbon cycling. Carbon in subsoil is less exposed to decomposition and OC can be stored at long-time scales in the subsoil (14C age of 3670±35 BP). In view of the ‘4/1000’ initiative, soils with constant carbon input (forest & grassland) fulfil the intended 4‰ growth rate of SOC stocks only in the first 60years of soil development. We proclaim that under the present climate in Central Europe, the increase of SOC stocks in soil is strongly affected by the state of soil development.

Concepts: Soil, Carbon, Germany, Alluvium, Radiocarbon dating, Carbon-14, Subsoil, Danube