Modeling dynamic soil carbon attributes among common southern New England land uses

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Tracking changes in the quantity and variability of soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks associated with different land uses over time is a critical step in understanding decadal-scale impacts of soils on climate change, and can be an important reality check for more complex modeling efforts. In this study, we used a Bayesian statistical framework to quantify and compare SOC stocks among common southern New England land use types (sod farms, silage corn, forest, and turfgrass), including sod fields in continuous production for different periods of time (approximately 10, 20, and 30 years). Further, we modeled the export of SOC associated with sod harvesting, propagating uncertainty from observations to export estimates. Despite unsustainable annual rates of soil removal (74 to 114 Mg ha−1), SOC stocks for sod fields in production for different time periods were not credibly lower than those of the other land uses examined. Mean exported SOC from sod harvest ranged from 1.67 to 3.23 Mg ha−1, which was enough to entirely deplete the 0–30 cm SOC stock in approximately 30 years. These results suggest that organic C inputs to the upper 30 cm of sod farm soils, from subsoil incorporation during post-harvest tillage and belowground net primary production, may have been maintaining SOC by offsetting loses over several decades. This is unlikely to continue, however, if the eolian mantle that characterizes these soils is depleted due to the cumulative impact of sod harvest on soil removal.

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Geoderma Regional