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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 70 No. 2, p. 601-612
    Received: May 12, 2005

    * Corresponding author(s): earthy@nature.berkeley.edu
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Analysis of Factors Controlling Soil Carbon in the Conterminous United States

  1. Yinyan Guo,
  2. Peng Gong,
  3. Ronald Amundson * and
  4. Qian Yu
  1. Division of Ecosystem Sciences and Center for Assessment and Monitoring of Forest and Environmental Resources (CAMFER), 137 Mulford Hall, College of Natural Resources, Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3110


Maps of soil organic carbon (SOC) and inorganic carbon (SIC) were generated from the State Soil Geographical database (STATSGO) and were overlain with land-cover, topography (elevation and slope), mean annual precipitation (MAP), and mean annual temperature (MAT) databases to study the effects of environmental driving factors (or “state factors”) in the conterminous USA. In the USA, human disturbance has significantly reduced SOC and SIC in the surface layer. The SOC decreases as elevation increases. Level topography has twice the SOC content of other slope classes. Soil organic C increases as MAP increases up to values of 700–850 mm yr−1 There is no obvious pattern in SIC as MAP increases until MAP exceeds 1000 mm, at which point on SIC drops dramatically. For natural vegetation with MAP < 1000 mm, SOC decreases as MAT increases (within restricted ranges of elevation and topography). The relationship between SOC versus MAT varies with MAP, and SOC is most sensitive to temperature in low and moderate MAP regions and in the upper soil layers. This GIS-based analysis is a relatively coarse evaluation given the nature of the database, but does provide a first quantitative assessment of soil C to “state factors” for the USA as a whole using commonly available digital databases.

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