Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2014, Vol. 24 ›› Issue (6): 1035-1046.doi: 10.1007/s11442-014-1136-9

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Detecting the storage and change on topsoil organic carbon in grasslands of Inner Mongolia from 1980s to 2010s

Erfu DAI1(), Ruixue ZHAI1,2, Quansheng GE1, Xiuqin WU3   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China
  • Received:2014-07-12 Accepted:2014-08-08 Online:2014-06-20 Published:2014-06-20
  • About author:

    Author: Dai Erfu (1972-), PhD and Professor, specialized in comprehensive study of physical geography, climate change and regional response, simulation of LUCC. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    The National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program), No.2011CB403206.No.2012CB416906.National Key Technology R&D Program, No.2013BAC03B04


Soil carbon sequestration and potential has been a focal issue in global carbon research. Under the background of global change, the estimation of the size as well as its change of soil organic carbon (SOC) storage is of great importance. Based on soil data from the second national soil survey and field survey during 2011-2012, by using the regression method between sampling soil data and remote sensing data, this paper aimed to investigate spatial distribution and changes of topsoil (0-20 cm) organic carbon storage in grasslands of Inner Mongolia between the 1980s and 2010s. The results showed that: (1) the SOC storage in grasslands of Inner Mongolia between the 1980s and 2010s was estimated to be 2.05 and 2.17 Pg C, with an average density of 3.48 and 3.69 kg C·m-2, respectively. The SOC storage was mainly distributed in the typical steppe and meadow steppe, which accounted for over 98% of the total SOC storage. The spatial distribution showed a decreased trend from the meadow steppe, typical steppe to the desert steppe, corresponding to the temperature and precipitation gradient. (2) SOC changes during 1982-2012 were estimated to be 0.12 Pg C, at 7.00 g C·m-2·yr-1, which didn’t show a significant change, indicating that SOC storage in grasslands of Inner Mongolia remained relatively stable over this period. However, topsoil organic carbon showed different trends of carbon source/sink during the past three decades. Meadow steppe and typical steppe had sequestered 0.15 and 0.03 Pg C, respectively, served as a carbon sink; while desert steppe lost 0.06 Pg C, served as a carbon source. It appears that SOC storage in grassland ecosystem may respond differently to climate change, related to vegetation type, regional climate type and grazing intensity. These results might give advice to decision makers on adopting suitable countermeasures for sustainable grassland utilization and protection.

Key words: surface soil, organic carbon storage, climate change, spatial differences, grassland in Inner Mongolia