Soil nutrients increase long-term soil carbon gains threefold on retired farmland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Abandoned agricultural lands often accumulate soil carbon (C) following depletion of soil C by cultivation. The potential for this recovery to provide significant C storage benefits depends on the rate of soil C accumulation, which, in turn, may depend on nutrient supply rates. We tracked soil C for almost four decades following intensive agricultural soil disturbance along an experimentally imposed gradient in nitrogen (N) added annually in combination with other macro- and micro-nutrients. Soil %C accumulated over the course of the study in unfertilized control plots leading to a gain of 6.1 Mg C ha−1 in the top 20 cm of soil. Nutrient addition increased soil %C accumulation leading to a gain of 17.8 Mg C ha−1 in fertilized plots, nearly a threefold increase over the control plots. These results demonstrate that substantial increases in soil C in successional grasslands following agricultural abandonment occur over decadal timescales, and that C gain is increased by high supply rates of soil nutrients. In addition, soil %C continued to increase for decades under elevated nutrient supply, suggesting that short-term nutrient addition experiments underestimate the effects of soil nutrients on soil C accumulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4909-4920
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal change biology
Volume27
Issue number19
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank T. Mielke and the Cedar Creek staff and interns for work on this experiment. We also thank F. Isbell for input on analyses and writing. This work was supported by grants from the US National Science Foundation Long-Term Ecological Research Program (LTER) including DEB-1234162 and DEB-1831944. Support also was provided by the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, the Minnesota Supercomputer Institute, and the University of Minnesota.

Funding Information:
The authors thank T. Mielke and the Cedar Creek staff and interns for work on this experiment. We also thank F. Isbell for input on analyses and writing. This work was supported by grants from the US National Science Foundation Long‐Term Ecological Research Program (LTER) including DEB‐1234162 and DEB‐1831944. Support also was provided by the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, the Minnesota Supercomputer Institute, and the University of Minnesota.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Keywords

  • LTER
  • disturbance
  • ecosystem ecology
  • global change
  • grasslands
  • recovery

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