Ecology and Environment

Effects of afforestation on soil carbon turnover in China’s subtropical region

  • 1. Key Lab of Ecosystem Network and Modelling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China|
    2. Queens College, City University of New York, New York, USA

Received date: 2010-05-06

  Revised date: 2010-07-21

  Online published: 2011-01-13

Supported by

National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.30670312; The Key Project of Knowledge Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.KZCX2-YW-305-3


Afforestation in China’s subtropics plays an important role in sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere and in storage of soil carbon (C). Compared with natural forests, plantation forests have lower soil organic carbon (SOC) content and great potential to store more C. To better evaluate the effects of afforestation on soil C turnover, we investigated SOC and its stable C isotope (δ13C) composition in three planted forests at Qianyanzhou Ecological Experimental Station in southern China. Litter and soil samples were collected and analyzed for total organic C, δ13C and total nitrogen. Similarly to the vertical distribution of SOC in natural forests, SOC concentrations decrease exponentially with depth. The land cover type (grassland) before plantation had a significant influence on the vertical distribution of SOC. The SOC δ13C composition of the upper soil layer of two plantation forests has been mainly affected by the grass biomass 13C composition. Soil profiles with a change in photosynthetic pathway had a more complex 13C isotope composition distribution. During the 20 years after plantation establishment, the soil organic matter sources influenced both the δ13C distribution with depth, and C replacement. The upper soil layer SOC turnover in masson pine (a mean 34% of replacement in the 10 cm after 20 years) was more than twice as fast as that of slash pine (16% of replacement) under subtropical conditions. The results demonstrate that masson pine and slash pine plantations cannot rapidly sequester SOC into long-term storage pools in subtropical China.

Cite this article

WANG Shaoqiang, LIU Jiyuan, ZHANG Cheng, YI Chuixiang, WU Weixing . Effects of afforestation on soil carbon turnover in China’s subtropical region[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2011 , 21(1) : 118 -134 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-011-0833-x