Soil organic carbon along an altitudinal gradient in the Despeñaperros Natural Park, southern Spain
Abstract. Soil organic carbon (SOC) is extremely important in the global carbon (C) cycle as C sequestration in non-disturbed soil ecosystems can be a C sink and mitigate greenhouse-gas-driven climate change. Soil organic carbon changes in space and time are relevant to understand the soil system and its role in the C cycle. This is why the influence of topographic position on SOC should be studied. Seven topographic positions from a toposequence between 607 and 1168 m were analyzed in the Despeñaperros Natural Park (Jaén, SW Spain). Depending on soil depth, one to three control sections (0–25, 25–50 and 75 cm) were sampled at each site. The SOC content in studied soils was below 30 g kg−1 and strongly decreases with depth. These results were related to the gravel content and to the bulk density. The SOC content from the topsoil (0–25 cm) varied largely through the altitudinal gradient ranging between 27.3 and 39.9 g kg−1. The SOC stock (SOCS) varied between 53.8 and 158.0 Mg ha−1 in the studied area, which had been clearly conditioned by the topographic position. Therefore, results suggest that elevation should be included in SOCS models and estimations at local and regional scales.