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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 73 No. 5, p. 1724-1732
    Received: Dec 16, 2008

    * Corresponding author(s): m.stutter@macaulay.ac.uk
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Spatial Variability in Properties Affecting Organic Horizon Carbon Storage in Upland Soils

  1. M.I. Stutter *a,
  2. D.G. Lumsdona,
  3. M.F. Billettb,
  4. D. Lowc and
  5. L.K. Deeksd
  1. a Macaulay Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK
    b Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bush Estate, Penicuik, Midlothian, EH26 0QB, UK
    c School of Biological Sciences, Aberdeen University, AB24 3UU, UK
    d National Soil Resources Institute, Cranfield University, Okehampton, EX20 2SB, UK


Quantifying the amount and distribution of soil organic carbon (SOC) within natural soils is important for sample design, C budgeting/pool estimation, and understanding SOC turnover at a process level. We examined the distribution of SOC across a typical UK upland, moorland catchment to establish the amount and spatial structure of variability in key soil properties affecting SOC stocks, namely O horizon C content, bulk density (DB) and horizon depth. Organic horizons of Histosols and Gleysols had greater SOC contents but smaller bulk densities than Podzols and Leptosols. Consequently, SOC density differences between soils were minimized and horizon depth variation became crucial to the measurement of SOC stocks. However, individual Podzol profiles stored appreciable amounts of SOC in O horizons (up to 50 kg m−2). Geostatistical analyses showed spatially structured variance in many properties relating to SOC storage at both plot (variograms reaching sills at ranges 3–8 m) and catchment scales (ranges 437–529 m). The increase in variance from plot to catchment scales was large for O horizon depth. However, DB showed complex scale and soil type inter-relationships, with similar variance at different scales. We show that detailed soil investigations spanning multiple spatial scales are necessary to quantify soil C storage properties for purposes of hydro-ecological modeling and C budgeting at small catchment scales. This has implications for upscaling to regional or national soil C databases.

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