Articles | Volume 7, issue 1
Solid Earth, 7, 141–151, 2016
Solid Earth, 7, 141–151, 2016

Research article 27 Jan 2016

Research article | 27 Jan 2016

Effects of vegetation restoration on the aggregate stability and distribution of aggregate-associated organic carbon in a typical karst gorge region

F. K. Tang1, M. Cui1, Q. Lu1, Y. G. Liu1, H. Y. Guo2, and J. X. Zhou2 F. K. Tang et al.
  • 1Institute of Desertification Studies, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing, China
  • 2Beijing Forestry University, Key Laboratory of Soil and Water Conservation and Desertification Combating, Ministry of Education, Beijing, China

Abstract. Land use changes have a major impact on soil structure and soil nutrients. The influences of vegetation restoration on aggregate stability and soil carbon storage have been studied extensively, but the distribution of aggregate-associated carbon is not yet understood. The objective of this work was to study the influences of vegetation restoration on aggregate stability and distribution of soil organic carbon (SOC) associated with water-stable aggregates (WSAs) in a karst gorge region. The experiment was carried out in 2012 and included four land use types: bare land (BL), grassland (GL), shrubland (SL), and woodland (WL). Soil samples were collected from the 0–20, 20–40, and 40–60 cm depths, and aggregates were separated by a wet-sieving method. Aggregate stability and aggregated-associated SOC were determined, and the relationships between water-stable aggregation with SOC were examined. The results showed that total SOC and SOC associated with WSAs of various sizes were the highest at a soil depth of 0–20 cm. In addition, the SOC contents of the WSAs increased as the soil aggregate sizes decreased. The SOC contents of the WSAs < 0.25 mm were highest except in the bare land, and the SOC contents of the aggregates < 0.25 mm comprised the majority of the total aggregate SOC contents. The aggregates were dominated by particles with sizes > 5 mm under dry-sieving treatment, while aggregates were predominantly comprised of WSAs < 0.25 mm under wet-sieving treatment. At a soil depth of 0–60 cm, the mean weight diameter (MWD), geometrical mean diameter (GMD), and fractal dimensions (D) of the dry aggregates and water-stable aggregates in the different types of land were ranked, in descending order, as WL > GL > SL > BL. The contents of WSAs > 0.25 mm, MWD, and GMD increased significantly, in that order, and the percentage of aggregate destruction (PAD) and fractal dimensions decreased significantly as the soil aggregate stability improved. SOC contents increased after vegetation restoration, and the average SOC content of WL was 2.35, 1.37, and 1.26 times greater than that in the BL, GL, and SL, respectively. We conclude that woodland and grassland facilitated WSA stability and SOC protection; thus, promoting the natural restoration of vegetation by reducing artificial disturbances could effectively restore the ecology and prevent soil erosion in karst regions.

Short summary
A study of vegetation restoration's effects on soil aggregate stability and SOC sequestration was carried out in a typical karst region (China). We found that revegetation promoted soil stability and accumulation of total SOC and SOC associated in water stable aggregates (WSA). WSA < 0.25 mm has the greatest contribution to total SOC. Fractal dimensions could objectively and comprehensively reflect soil stability. Promoting natural restoration is the ideal method to restore ecology in karst region.