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Aridity shifts the difference in carbon uptake and storage between wooded and pure grasslands from positive to negative


Liu, Yunhua; Cheng, Junhui; Schmid, Bernhard; Sheng, Jiandong (2023). Aridity shifts the difference in carbon uptake and storage between wooded and pure grasslands from positive to negative. Science of the Total Environment, 861:160614.

Abstract

Woody plant encroachment in arid grasslands may reduce plant uptake and soil storage of carbon (C) with consequences for the global C cycle, yet multi-site comparative studies have not been done so far and experiments are not feasible due to the long time needed for soil organic C (SOC) to accumulate. We selected multiple grassland sites with ≥50 % or 0 % woody plant aboveground biomass in each of six vegetation types representing a gradient of increasing aridity, resulting in a comparative study design with a total of 178 pure and 106 wooded grasslands distributed over the large geographic area of Xinjiang, China. Differences between wooded and pure grasslands in SOC stocks in the top 100 cm of the soil changed from positive to negative with increasing aridity. This effect was strongest in the upper soil layers, suggesting that woody plants had perhaps not been present for long enough to leave a signal in the lower soil layers. The differences in SOC stocks were related to differences in plant belowground standing C (BGC) and these to differences in yearly plant aboveground C uptake (ANPP) between wooded and pure grasslands. At more arid sites, wooded grasslands had lower ANPP and BGC because of reduced contributions of herbaceous plants that were not fully compensated by woody plants. Considering predicted increases in aridity in the study region, our results suggest that to avoid future losses of grassland SOC stocks - which are several ten times higher than the C stored in plant organs - management should try to prevent or reduce woody plant encroachment.

Abstract

Woody plant encroachment in arid grasslands may reduce plant uptake and soil storage of carbon (C) with consequences for the global C cycle, yet multi-site comparative studies have not been done so far and experiments are not feasible due to the long time needed for soil organic C (SOC) to accumulate. We selected multiple grassland sites with ≥50 % or 0 % woody plant aboveground biomass in each of six vegetation types representing a gradient of increasing aridity, resulting in a comparative study design with a total of 178 pure and 106 wooded grasslands distributed over the large geographic area of Xinjiang, China. Differences between wooded and pure grasslands in SOC stocks in the top 100 cm of the soil changed from positive to negative with increasing aridity. This effect was strongest in the upper soil layers, suggesting that woody plants had perhaps not been present for long enough to leave a signal in the lower soil layers. The differences in SOC stocks were related to differences in plant belowground standing C (BGC) and these to differences in yearly plant aboveground C uptake (ANPP) between wooded and pure grasslands. At more arid sites, wooded grasslands had lower ANPP and BGC because of reduced contributions of herbaceous plants that were not fully compensated by woody plants. Considering predicted increases in aridity in the study region, our results suggest that to avoid future losses of grassland SOC stocks - which are several ten times higher than the C stored in plant organs - management should try to prevent or reduce woody plant encroachment.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
08 Research Priority Programs > Global Change and Biodiversity
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Scopus Subject Areas:Physical Sciences > Environmental Engineering
Physical Sciences > Environmental Chemistry
Physical Sciences > Waste Management and Disposal
Physical Sciences > Pollution
Uncontrolled Keywords:Pollution, Waste Management and Disposal, Environmental Chemistry, Environmental Engineering
Language:English
Date:1 February 2023
Deposited On:16 Mar 2023 12:33
Last Modified:29 May 2024 01:50
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0048-9697
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.160614
Project Information:
  • : FunderUniversity of Zurich
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)