Potential Carbon Transport: Linking Soil Aggregate Stability and Sediment Enrichment for Updating the Soil Active Layer within Intensely Managed Landscapes

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 11:05 AM
Kenneth Wacha1, Thanos Papanicolaou2, Benjamin K Abban2 and Christopher G Wilson2, (1)IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, United States, (2)University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, United States
Currently, many biogeochemical models lack the mechanistic capacity to accurately simulate soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics, especially within intensely managed landscapes (IMLs) such as those found in the U.S. Midwest. These modeling limitations originate by not accounting for downslope connectivity of flowpathways initiated and governed by landscape processes and hydrologic forcing, which induce dynamic updates to the soil active layer (generally top 20-30cm of soil) with various sediment size fractions and aggregates being transported and deposited along the downslope. These hydro-geomorphic processes, often amplified in IMLs by tillage events and seasonal canopy, can greatly impact biogeochemical cycles (e.g., enhanced mineralization during aggregate breakdown) and in turn, have huge implications/uncertainty when determining SOC budgets. In this study, some of these limitations were addressed through a new concept, Potential Carbon Transport (PCT), a term which quantifies a maximum amount of material available for transport at various positions of the landscape, which was used to further refine a coupled modeling framework focused on SOC redistribution through downslope/lateral connectivity. Specifically, the size fractions slaked from large and small aggregates during raindrop-induced aggregate stability tests were used in conjunction with rainfall-simulated sediment enrichment ratio (ER) experiments to quantify the PCT under various management practices, soil types and landscape positions. Field samples used in determining aggregate stability and the ER experiments were collected/performed within the historic Clear Creek Watershed, home of the IML Critical Zone Observatory, located in Southeastern Iowa.