The mechanics of erosion on soil organic redistribution

Friday, 19 December 2014: 11:20 AM
Thanos Papanicolaou, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, United States
Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) is an important constituent of the earth’s fabric derived from the breakdown of above ground plant litter, plant rhizomes and root exudates in the form of organic by-products. Stocks of SOC can be affected by a variety of natural and human-induced drivers, including climate and land management practices which collectively could affect intrinsic and extrinsic factors related to SOC, for example, soil texture, soil microclimate, and biomass accumulation rates . In intensely managed agricultural landscapes (IMLs), i.e., regions of significant land use change where significant degradation of SOC has been reported due to soil erosion, enhancing the sequestration or storage potential of SOC is of paramount importance to the ecosystem well-being of these landscapes.

A literature review reveals that aspects of the SOC research have received considerable attention in the bioegeochemical, ecological, and agricultural disciplines because available SOC stocks within a soil column affect the evolution of key soil biogeochemical constituents. However, at the landscape scale the quantitative assessment of the SOC storage potential suffers in parts from lack of understanding of the collective effects that tillage and water-driven erosion have on the transport and burial of the eroded SOC. In this study an integrative process-based modeling framework that couples an established biogeochemical soil column model with a physically-based, landscape oriented watershed model capable of replicating the collective erosion effects on the mobilization and redistribution of SOC is developed. All simulations are conducted in an agricultural watershed in the U.S. Midwest Clear Creek, IA which has experienced intense agriculture since the beginning of the century to also assess the legacy effects that land use change and SOC initialization periods have on current SOC stock estimations.