Changes in soil organic carbon and nitrogen capacities of Salix cheilophila Schneid along a revegetation chronosequence in semi-arid degraded sandy land of the Gonghe Basin, Tibet Plateau
Abstract. The Gonghe Basin is a sandified and desertified region of China, but the distribution of soil organic carbon (SOC) and total nitrogen (TN) along the cultivation chronosequence across this ecologically fragile region is not well understood. This study was carried out to understand the effects of restoration with Salix cheilophila for different periods of time (6, 11, 16, 21 years) to test whether it enhanced C and N storage. Soil samples, in four replications from seven depth increments (0–10, 10–20, 20–30, 30–50, 50–100, 100–150 and 150–200 cm), were collected in each stand. Soil bulk density, SOC, TN, aboveground biomass and root biomass were measured. Results indicated that changes occurred in both the upper and deeper soil layers with an increase in revegetation time. The 0–200 cm soil showed that the 6-year stand gained 3.89 Mg C ha−1 and 1.00 Mg N ha−1, which accounted for 40.82% of the original SOC and 11.06% of the TN of the 0-year stand. The 11-year stand gained 7.82 Mg C ha−1 and 1.98 Mg N ha−1 in the 0–200 cm soil layers, accounting for 58.06% of the SOC and 19.80% of the TN of the 0-year stand. The 16-year stand gained 11.32 Mg C ha−1 and 3.30 Mg N ha−1 in the 0–200 cm soil layers, accounting for 66.71% of the SOC and 21.98% of the TN of the 0-year stand. The 21-year stand gained 13.05 Mg C ha−1 and 5.45 Mg N ha−1 from the same soil depth, accounting for 69.79% of the SOC and 40.47% of the TN compared with the 0-year stand. The extent of these changes depended on soil depth and plantation age. The results demonstrated that, as stand age increased, the storage of SOC and TN increased. These results further indicated that restoration with S. cheilophila has positive impacts on the Gonghe Basin and has increased the capacity of SOC sequestration and N storage. The shrub's role as carbon sink is compatible with system management and persistence. The findings are significant for assessing C and N sequestration accurately in semi-arid degraded high, cold sandy regions in the future.