Articles | Volume 6, issue 2
Research article
24 Apr 2015
Research article |  | 24 Apr 2015

Litter contribution to soil organic carbon in the processes of agriculture abandon

A. Novara, J. Rühl, T. La Mantia, L. Gristina, S. La Bella, and T. Tuttolomondo

Abstract. The mechanisms of litter decomposition, translocation and stabilization into soil layers are fundamental processes in the functioning of the ecosystem, as they regulate the cycle of soil organic matter (SOM) and CO2 emission into the atmosphere. In this study the contribution of litters of different stages of Mediterranean secondary succession on carbon sequestration was investigated, analyzing the role of earthworms in the translocation of SOM into the soil profile. For this purpose the δ13C difference between meadow C4-C soil and C3-C litter was used in a field experiment. Four undisturbed litters of different stages of succession (45, 70, 100 and 120 since agriculture abandon) were collected and placed on the top of isolated C4 soil cores.

The litter contribution to C stock was affected by plant species and it increased with the age of the stage of secondary succession. One year after the litter position, the soil organic carbon increased up to 40% in comparison to soils not treated with litter after 120 years of abandon.

The new carbon derived from C3 litter was decomposed and transferred into soil profile thanks to earthworms and the leaching of dissolved organic carbon. After 1 year the carbon increase attributed to earthworm activity was 6 and 13% in the soils under litter of fields abandoned for 120 and 45 years, respectively.