Effect of land use patterns on stability and distributions of organic carbon in the hilly region of Western Sichuan, China
Soil aggregation is important for the resistance of land surfaces to erosion, and it influences the ability of soils to remain productive. At the same time, it is also an important process of carbon sequestration. The objectives of this study were to elucidate the effects of different land use patterns on soil aggregate stability and the distribution of organic carbon in different aggregate fractions in order to prove that the different land use patterns enhance soil aggregate stability. Five kinds of soil samples were collected from the hilly area of western Sichuan under different land use patterns, such as abandoned farmlands, eucalyptus plantations, Chinese fir plantations, tea plantations and loquat orchards. The results demonstrated that the five land use patterns had high proportions of aggregates at the size of >2 mm after dry sieving, and had high proportions of aggregates at the size of < 0.5 mm after wet sieving. The aggregation abilities of the soils were significantly different depending on land use patterns. Waterstable aggregate stability was highest in the Chinese fir plantations, followed by eucalyptus plantations and tea plantations. Water-stable aggregate stability was the lowest in loquat orchards and abandoned farmlands. Except for coarse particle, soil particle contents of the same size were affected according to the different land use patterns. As the size of aggregates decreased, the organic carbon content of the soil aggregates in tea plantations increased after a decrease, and then reduced again. However, the organic carbon contents of soil aggregates in other land uses increased continuously with the decreasing size of aggregates. Organic carbon content of the soil aggregates was strongly increased in land areas that had been converted from abandoned farmland to Chinese fir plantations, tea plantations and loquat orchards, while it was decreased when abandoned farmland was converted to eucalyptus plantations. The results provided the basis of implementation of returning farmland to forest and the process of carbon sequestration in the study areas.
Key words: Soil aggregate, soil aggregate fractions, soil aggregate stability, organic carbon content of the soil aggregates, land uses.