Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 113, Issue 1, pp 77–93 | Cite as

Uncertainty in CENTURY-modelled changes in soil organic carbon stock in the uplands of Northeast China, 1980–2050

  • X. Y. Liu
  • Y. C. ZhaoEmail author
  • X. Z. Shi
  • Y. Liu
  • S. H. Wang
  • D. S. Yu
Original Article


Process-based models have been successfully applied to predict long-term changes in soil organic carbon (SOC) at plot scales, but considerable uncertainties are still introduced into regional or national extrapolations due to the lack of spatially explicit information on the model input parameters. Using the CENTURY model we predicted SOC changes in the uplands of Northeast China during the period from 1980 to 2050 and provided 95% confidence intervals regarding the uncertainties associated with variability in the key input parameters. Regional SOC estimation predicted by CENTURY was reliable for the uplands of Northeast China when considering the uncertainty associated with heterogeneous key input parameters. SOC stocks were estimated to be 0.99, 0.88 and 0.87 Pg C in 1980, 2010 and 2050, with 95% confidence intervals ranging from 0.69 to 1.31, 0.66 to 1.11, and 0.69 to 1.07 Pg C, respectively. Overall, the upland soils of Northeast China functioned as a carbon source from 1980 to 2010, with a net decrease of 106 (9–207) Tg C. The SOC losses mainly occurred where SOC contents were high (Heilongjiang Province and eastern Jilin Province). However, assuming unchanged management, whether the uplands of Northeast China will serve as a carbon sink/source over the next 40 years remains uncertain. Information collection on the most influential input parameters (the initial SOC content and clay content) is critical to reduce uncertainty and to provide meaningful information for decision makers.


Agricultural SOC Uncertainty analysis Global sensitivity analysis CENTURY model 



We gratefully acknowledge the supports of the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2017YFA0603002), the Natural Science Foundation of China (41471177, 31800358) and the Research Fund of State Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable Agriculture (Y412201417) for this research. We thank Ms. Cindy Keough (the Natural Resources Ecology Lab, Colorado State University, USA) for kindly providing CENTURY 4.6 and her extremely valuable advice on CENTURY model initialization.


  1. Batjes NH (1996) Total carbon and nitrogen in the soils of the world. Eur J Soil Sci 47:151–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Batjes NH (1998) Mitigation of atmospheric CO2 concentrations by increased carbon sequestration in the soil. Biol Fertil Soils 27:230–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Begum K, Kuhnert M, Yeluripati J, Glendining M, Smith P (2017) Simulating soil carbon sequestration from long term fertilizer and manure additions under continuous wheat using the DailyDayCent model. Nutr Cycl Agroecosys 109:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brandani CB, Abbruzzini TF, Williams S, Easter M, Pellegrino Cerri CE, Paustian K (2015) Simulation of management and soil interactions impacting SOC dynamics in sugarcane using the CENTURY Model. Glob Change Biol Bioenergy 7:646–657CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cheng K, Ogle SM, Parton WJ, Pan GX (2014) Simulating greenhouse gas mitigation potentials for Chinese Croplands using the DAYCENT ecosystem model. Glob Change Biol 20:948–962CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Coleman K, Jenkinson DS, Crocker GJ, Grace PR, Klir J, Korschens M, Poulton PR, Richter DD (1997) Simulating trends in soil organic carbon in long-term experiments using RothC-26.3. Geoderma 81:29–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dimassi B, Guenet B, Saby NPA, Munoz F, Bardy M, Millet F, Martin MP (2018) The impacts of CENTURY model initialization scenarios on soil organic carbon dynamics simulation in French long-term experiments. Geoderma 311:25–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dou X, He P, Zhu P, Zhou W (2016) Soil organic carbon dynamics under long-term fertilization in a black soil of China: evidence from stable C isotopes. Sci Rep 6:21488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Du Z, Angers DA, Ren T, Zhang Q, Li G (2017) The effect of no-till on organic C storage in Chinese soils should not be overemphasized: a meta-analysis. Agric Ecosyst Environ 236:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fang HJ, Yang XM, Zhang XP (2003) Organic carbon stock of black soils in northeast China and its contribution to atmospheric CO2 (in Chinese). J Soil Water Conserv 17:10–20Google Scholar
  11. Fitton N, Datta A, Smith K, Williams JR, Hastings A, Kuhnert M, Cfe T, Smith P (2014) Assessing the sensitivity of modelled estimates of N2O emissions and yield to input uncertainty at a UK cropland experimental site using the DailyDayCent model. Nutr Cycl Agroecosys 99:119–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Han B, Wang XK, Ouyang ZY, Cao ZQ, Zou DY, Sun HD, Zhu P, ZHou BK (2004) Distribution and change of agro-ecosystem carbon pool in the northeast of China (in Chinese). Chin J Soil Sci 35:401–407Google Scholar
  13. He YT, Zhang WJ, Xu MG, Tong XG, Sun FX, Wang JZ, Huang SM, Zhu P, He XH (2015) Long-term combined chemical and manure fertilizations increase soil organic carbon and total nitrogen in aggregate fractions at three typical cropland soils in China. Sci Total Environ 532:635–644CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hou RX, Ouyang Z, Li YS, Tyler DD, Li FD, Wilson GV (2012) Effects of tillage and residue management on soil organic carbon and total nitrogen in the North China Plain. Soil Sci Soc Am J 76:230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Huang Y, Sun WJ (2006) Changes in topsoil organic carbon of croplands in mainland China over the last two decades. Chin Sci Bull 51:1785–1803CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Huang Y, Yu YQ, Zhang W, Sun WJ, Liu SL, Jiang J, Wu JS, Yu WT, Wang Y, Yang ZF (2009) Agro-C: a biogeophysical model for simulating the carbon budget of agroecosystems. Agric For Meterol 149:106–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jaxa-Rozen M, Kwakkel J (2018) Tree-based ensemble methods for sensitivity analysis of environmental models: a performance comparison with Sobol and Morris techniques. Environ Model Softw 107:245–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Korsaeth A, Henriksen TM, Roer AG, Stromman AH (2014) Effects of regional variation in climate and SOC decay on global warming potential and eutrophication attributable to cereal production in Norway. Agric Syst 127:9–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Li CS, Frolking S, Frolking TA (1992) A model of nitrous oxide evolution from soil driven by rainfall events: 1. Model structure and sensitivity. J Geophys Res Atmos 97:9759–9776CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Li CS, Frolking S, Harriss R (1994) Modeling carbon biogeochemistry in agricultural soils. Global Biogeochem Cycles 8:237–254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Liu JY, Wang SQ, Chen JM, Liu ML, Zhuang DF (2004) Storages of soil organic carbon and nitrogen and land use changes in China: 1990–2000 (in Chinese). Acta Geogr Sin 59:483–496Google Scholar
  22. Liu XB, Zhang XY, Wang YX, Sui YY, Zhang SL, Herbert SJ, Ding G (2010) Soil degradation: a problem threatening the sustainable development of agriculture in Northeast China. Plant Soil Environ 56:87–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Liu XY, Zhao YC, Shi XZ, Liu Y, Wang SH, Yu DS (2016) Sensitivity and uncertainty analysis of CENTURY-modeled SOC dynamics in upland soils under different climate-soil-management conditions: a case study in China. J Soils Sediments 17:1–12Google Scholar
  24. Lu F, Wang XK, Han B, Ouyang ZY, Duan XN, Zheng H, Miao H (2009) Soil carbon sequestrations by nitrogen fertilizer application, straw return and no-tillage in China’s cropland. Glob Change Biol 15:281–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lugato E, Berti A (2008) Potential carbon sequestration in a cultivated soil under different climate change scenarios: a modelling approach for evaluating promising management practices in north-east Italy. Agric Ecosyst Environ 128:97–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Oelbermann M, Voroney RP (2011) An evaluation of the century model to predict soil organic carbon: examples from Costa Rica and Canada. Agrofor Syst 82:37–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Oelbermann M, Echarte L, Marroquin L, Morgan S, Regehr A, Vachon KE, Wilton M (2017) Estimating soil carbon dynamics in intercrop and sole crop agroecosystems using the Century model. J Plant Nutr Soil Sci 180:241–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ogle SM, Breidt FJ, Easter M, Williams S, Killian K, Paustian K (2010) Scale and uncertainty in modeled soil organic carbon stock changes for US croplands using a process-based model. Glob Change Biol 16:810–822CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ouyang W, Shan YS, Hao FH, Lin CY (2014) Differences in soil organic carbon dynamics in paddy fields and drylands in northeast China using the CENTURY model. Agric Ecosyst Environ 194:38–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pan GX, Xu XW, Smith P, Pan WN, Lal R (2010) An increase in topsoil SOC stock of China’s croplands between 1985 and 2006 revealed by soil monitoring. Agric Ecosyst Environ 136:133–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Parton WJ, Schimel DS, Cole CV, Ojima DS (1987) Analysis of factors controlling soil organic-matter levels in Great-Plains Grasslands. Soil Sci Soc Am J 51:1173–1179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Qin XB, Wang H, Li YE, Li Y, McConkey B, Lemke R, Li CS, Brandt K, Gao QZ, Wan YF (2013) A long-term sensitivity analysis of the denitrification and decomposition model. Environ Model Softw 43:26–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Qin FL, Zhao YC, Shi XZ, Xu SX, Yu DS (2016) Sensitivity and uncertainty analysis for the DeNitrification–DeComposition model, a case study of modeling soil organic carbon dynamics at a long-term observation site with a rice–bean rotation. Comput Electron Agric 124:263–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Qiu JJ, Tang HJ, Li H, Li CS (2004) Studies on the situation of soil organic carbon storage in croplands in northeast of China (in Chinese). Chin Agric Sci 8:1166Google Scholar
  35. Qiu SJ, Gao HJ, Zhu P, Hou YP, Zhao SC, Rong XM, Zhang YP, He P, Christie P, Zhou W (2016) Changes in soil carbon and nitrogen pools in a Mollisol after long-term fallow or application of chemical fertilizers, straw or manures. Soil Tillage Res 163:255–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. R Development Core Team (2014) R: a language and environment for statistical computing.
  37. Rutkowska B, Szulc W, Sosulski T, Skowrońska M, Szczepaniak J (2018) Impact of reduced tillage on CO2 emission from soil under maize cultivation. Soil Tillage Res 180:21–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Saltelli A, Ratto M, Andres T, Campolongo F, Cariboni J, Gatelli D, Saisana M, Tarantola S (2008) Global sensitivity analysis: the primer. Wiley, HobokenGoogle Scholar
  39. Stockmann U, Adams MA, Crawford JW, Field DJ, Henakaarchchi N, Jenkins M, Minasny B, McBratney AB, Courcelles VdRd, Singh K, Wheeler I, Abbott L, Angers DA, Baldock J, Bird M, Brookes PC, Chenu C, Jastrow JD, Lal R, Lehmann J, O’Donnell AG, Parton WJ, Whitehead D, Zimmermann M (2013) The knowns, known unknowns and unknowns of sequestration of soil organic carbon. Agric Ecosyst Environ 164:80–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Tang HJ, Qiu JJ, Van Ranst E, Li CS (2006) Estimations of soil organic carbon storage in cropland of China based on DNDC model. Geoderma 134:200–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tang XL, Zhao X, Bai YF, Tang ZY, Wang WT, Zhao YC, Wan HW, Xie ZQ, Shi XZ, Wu BF (2018) Carbon pools in China’s terrestrial ecosystems: new estimates based on an intensive field survey. Proc Natl Acad Sci 115:4021–4026CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wan YF, Lin E, Xiong W, Li YE, Guo LP (2011) Modeling the impact of climate change on soil organic carbon stock in upland soils in the 21st century in China. Agric Ecosyst Environ 141:23–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wang DD, Shi XZ, Lu XX, Wang HJ, Yu DS, Sun WX, Zhao YC (2010) Response of soil organic carbon spatial variability to the expansion of scale in the uplands of Northeast China. Geoderma 154:302–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wang SH, Shi XZ, Zhao YC, Weindorf DC, Yu DS, Xu SX, Tan MZ, Sun WX (2011) Regional simulation of soil organic carbon dynamics for dry farmland in east china by coupling a 1:500 000 soil database with the century model. Pedosphere 21:277–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wang GC, Luo ZK, Wang EL, Huang Y (2013) Contrasting effects of agricultural management on soil organic carbon balance in different agricultural regions of China. Pedosphere 23:717–728CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Xu WQ, Chen X, Luo GP, Lin Q (2011) Using the CENTURY model to assess the impact of land reclamation and management practices in oasis agriculture on the dynamics of soil organic carbon in the arid region of North-western China. Ecol Complex 8:30–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Yang JM, Yang JY, Dou S, Yang XM, Hoogenboom G (2013) Simulating the effect of long-term fertilization on maize yield and soil C/N dynamics in northeastern China using DSSAT and CENTURY-based soil model. Nutr Cycl Agroecosys 95:287–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Yu YQ, Huang Y, Zhang W (2012) Modeling soil organic carbon change in croplands of China, 1980–2009. Glob Planet Change 82:115–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Yu YQ, Huang Y, Zhang W (2013) Projected changes in soil organic carbon stocks of China’s croplands under different agricultural managements, 2011–2050. Agric Ecosyst Environ 178:109–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Zhang F, Li C, Wang Z, Wu H (2006) Modeling impacts of management alternatives on soil carbon storage of farmland in Northwest China. Biogeosciences 3:451–466CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zhang LM, Yu DS, Shi XZ, Xu SX, Xing SH, Zhao YC (2014) Effects of soil data and simulation unit resolution on quantifying changes of soil organic carbon at regional scale with a biogeochemical process model. PLoS ONE 9:e88622CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zhang LM, Zhuang QL, Li XD, Zhao QY, Yu DS, Liu YL, Shi XZ, Xing SH, Wang GX (2016) Carbon sequestration in the uplands of Eastern China: an analysis with high-resolution model simulations. Soil Tillage Res 158:165–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Zhang LM, Liu YL, Li XD, Huang LB, Yu DS, Shi XZ, Chen HY, Xing SH (2018) Effects of soil map scales on simulating soil organic carbon changes of upland soils in Eastern China. Geoderma 312:159–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Zhao Y, Wang M, Hu S, Zhang X, Ouyang Z, Zhang G, Huang B, Zhao S, Wu J, Xie D (2018) Economics- and policy-driven organic carbon input enhancement dominates soil organic carbon accumulation in Chinese croplands. Proc Natl Acad Sci 115:4045CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • X. Y. Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Y. C. Zhao
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • X. Z. Shi
    • 1
    • 3
  • Y. Liu
    • 1
    • 4
  • S. H. Wang
    • 1
    • 5
  • D. S. Yu
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable AgricultureInstitute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of SciencesNanjingChina
  2. 2.Jiangsu Vocational College of Agriculture and ForestryJurongChina
  3. 3.University of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.Institute of Agricultural InformationJiangsu Academy of Agricultural SciencesNanjingChina
  5. 5.Anhui University of Science and TechnologyHuainanChina

Personalised recommendations