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Applied and Environmental Soil Science
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 206758, 7 pages
Research Article

Baseline-Dependent Responses of Soil Organic Carbon Dynamics to Climate and Land Disturbances

1ARTS, US Geological Survey (USGS), Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, 47914 252nd Street, Sioux Falls, SD 57198, USA
2US Geological Survey (USGS), Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, Sioux Falls, SD 57198, USA

Received 21 November 2012; Revised 24 January 2013; Accepted 25 January 2013

Academic Editor: Alessandro Piccolo

Copyright © 2013 Zhengxi Tan and Shuguang Liu. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Terrestrial carbon (C) sequestration through optimizing land use and management is widely considered a realistic option to mitigate the global greenhouse effect. But how the responses of individual ecosystems to changes in land use and management are related to baseline soil organic C (SOC) levels still needs to be evaluated at various scales. In this study, we modeled SOC dynamics within both natural and managed ecosystems in North Dakota of the United States and found that the average SOC stock in the top 20 cm depth of soil lost at a rate of 450 kg C ha−1 yr−1 in cropland and 110 kg C ha−1 yr−1 in grassland between 1971 and 1998. Since 1998, the study area had become a SOC sink at a rate of 44 kg C ha−1 yr−1. The annual rate of SOC change in all types of lands substantially depends on the magnitude of initial SOC contents, but such dependency varies more with climatic variables within natural ecosystems and with management practices within managed ecosystems. Additionally, soils with high baseline SOC stocks tend to be C sources following any land surface disturbances, whereas soils having low baseline C contents likely become C sinks following conservation management.