Controls on Soil Carbon Sequestration and Dynamics: Lessons from Land-use Change


  • Sherri J. Morris
  • Richard Conant
  • Nathan Mellor
  • Elizabeth Brewer
  • Eldor A. Paul


soil carbon, management, sequestration, global change


Soil carbon (C) dynamics and sequestration are controlled by interactions of chemical, physical and biological factors. These factors include biomass quantity and quality, physical environment and the biota. Management can alter these factors in ways that alter C dynamics. We have focused on a range of managed sites with documented land use change from agriculture or grassland to forest. Our results suggest that interactions of soil type, plant and environment impact soil C sequestration. Above and below ground C storage varied widely across sites. Results were related to plant type and calcium on sandy soils in our Northern sites. Predictors of sequestration were more difficult to detect over the temperature range of 12.4°C in the present study. Accrual of litter under pines in the moist Mississippi site limited C storage in a similar manner to our dry Nebraska site. Pre-planting heterogeneity of agricultural fields such as found in Illinois influences C contents. Manipulation of controls on C sequestration such as species planted or amelioration of soil quality before planting within managed sites could increase soil C to provide gains in terrestrial C storage. Cost effective management would also improve soil C pools positively affecting soil fertility and site productivity.