J Integr Plant Biol. ›› 2005, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (4): -.DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-7909.2005.00085.x

• Research Articles •    

Soil Organic Matter Dynamics Along a Vertical Vegetation Gradient in the Gongga Mountain on the Tibetan Plateau

Lin WANG, Hua OUYANG, Cai-Ping ZHOU, Feng ZHANG, Ming-Hua SONG,Yu-Qiang TIAN   

Abstract: Our knowledge about soil organic matter (SOM) dynamics is limited although this is an important issue in the study of responses of ecosystems to global climate changes. Twelve sampling plots were set up every 200 m from 1 700 to 3 900 m along the vertical vegetation gradient along the east slope of Gongga Mountain. Samples were taken from all 12 plots for SOM content measurement, although only 5 of the 12 plots were subjected to radiocarbon measurements. A radiocarbon isotope method and a time-dependent model were used to quantify the SOM dynamics and SOM turnover rates along the vertical vegetation gradient. The results showed that the SOM turnover rate decreased and turnover time increased with soil depth for all vegetation types. The litter layer turnover rates presented a clear trend along the gradient. The litter layer turnover rates decreased with an increase in elevation, except that the litter layer turnover rate of mixed forest was higher than that of evergreen forest. Climatic factors, such as temperature and precipitation, were the main factors influencing the surface soil carbon dynamics. The turnover rates of the subsoil (including the A, B, and C horizons in the soil profiles) along the vertical gradient had no clear trends. The SOM of subalpine shrub and meadow turned over more slowly than that of the forest types in almost all soil horizons. The characteristic of short roots distributing in the upper part of the soil profile leads to different SOM dynamics of shrub and meadow compared with the forest types. Coniferous and mixed forests were susceptible to carbon loss from the young carbon pool, but their long and big roots resulted in high D14C values of the deep soil profiles and increased the input of young carbon to the deep soil. In evergreen forest, the carbon cumulative ability from the B horizon to the C horizon was weak. The different vegetation types, together with their different modes of nutrient and carbon intake, may be the mechanism conditioning the subsoil organic matter dynamics.

Key words: carbon cycle, radiocarbon isotope, Tibetan Plateau, turnover rate, turnover time.

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