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Subsurface Carbon Contents: Some Case Studies in Forest Soils

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This article evaluates the importance of deeper soil horizons for soil C inventories in forest ecosystems. For non-Spodosols, we categorized soils as to the degree of convexity of the cumulative soil C content profile. Soils with a highly convex or asymptotic soil C content profile contained a significantly lower fraction of their total C (36 ± 8%) below 20 cm than those with less convex (nonasymptotic) profiles (51 ± 2%), even though the more convex soils were 12 cm (23%) deeper. Spodosols contained the most C below 20 cm (66 ± 3%) as a result of the presence of spodic horizons. Spodosols also contained substantially more total soil profile C than non-Spodosols even though the average depths of sampling were similar. Langmuir and logarithmic equations predicted C contents of deeper horizons fairly well for most non-Spodosol soils, whereas C content declines systematically with depth. These equations were very poor for Spodosols, however, because of the increases in soil C with depth that often occur with spodic horizons. Two case studies from the Sierra Nevada mountains suggested that C concentration varies to a greater degree than does bulk density or fine earth (% <2 mm) content, thus illustrating the importance of obtaining good estimates of the large stone content, which can offset differences in C concentration when C content is calculated in the normal fashion (i.e., ignoring the >2-mm fraction). These case studies do not support the idea of estimating bulk density from soil C concentration.

Keywords: Langmuir; carbon; deep horizons; equations; forest soils; logarithmic

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2015 Impact Factor: 1.702
    Ranking: 16 of 66 in forestry

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
    Other SAF Publications
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