Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 30, pp 30301–30314 | Cite as

Profile distribution of soil organic and inorganic carbon following revegetation on the Loess Plateau, China

  • Li Zhang
  • Wei ZhaoEmail author
  • Rui Zhang
  • Hua Cao
  • Wenfeng Tan
Research Article


In arid and semiarid areas, which are characterized by fragile ecological systems, deforestation and tillage have resulted in a net loss of soil carbon to the atmosphere. Vegetation restoration has great potential to alter the soil carbon stock. Exploring sustainable vegetation restoration for carbon sequestration in soils requires adequate information on soil carbon and soil water. The vertical distribution of soil organic/inorganic carbon (SOC/SIC) and soil water in the 0–200 cm soil depth under cropland, forestland, shrubland, and grassland with restoration age (0–30 years) in Zhifanggou watershed on the Chinese Loess Plateau were investigated. The results showed that after 10 years vegetation restoration, SOC content at topsoil in forestland, shrubland, and grassland increased significantly, and SIC content at subsoil in shrubland and grassland increased significantly due to more pedogenic carbonate formed by Ca2+ derived from the decomposed litter and biogenic CO2. The absolute values of the slopes of the linear regression patterns between SOC and SIC were in the order grassland > forestland and shrubland and indicate that under the grassland the increment in SIC is larger per unit decrement in SOC. After 20 years vegetation restoration, the soil water content under forestland and shrubland decreased to 4.74%–6.16 and 4.08%–5.21% which are close to the wilting coefficient (5%) for the sandy loam soil in Zhifanggou watershed, resulting in the obstacle to sustainable land use. The conversion from cropland to natural grassland kept the relatively high level of soil water and may be the sustainable vegetation restoration approach to increase soil carbon.


Soil organic carbon Soil inorganic carbon Carbon sequestration Soil water Restoration age 



This research was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41330852 and No. 41101218), by the One Hundred Elitist Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. 281), and by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2011JQ013).

Supplementary material

11356_2018_3020_MOESM1_ESM.docx (450 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 449 kb)


  1. An SS, Mentler A, Mayer H, Blum WE (2010) Soil aggregation, aggregate stability, organic carbon and nitrogen in different soil aggregate fractions under forest and shrub vegetation on the Loess Plateau, China. Catena 81:226–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Briggs LJ, Shantz HL (1912) The wilting coefficient and its indirect determination. Bot Gaz 53:20–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bronick CJ, Lal R (2005) Soil structure and management: a review. Geoderma 124:3–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bublinec E (1971) Influence of pine forests on instant soil moisture in climatic variable years. J Hydrol Hydromech (Bratislava) 19:622–650Google Scholar
  5. Chang RY, Fu BJ, Liu GH, Wang S, Yao XL (2012) The effects of afforestation on soil organic and inorganic carbon: a case study of the Loess Plateau of China. Catena 95:145–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen QB, Wang KQ, Qi S, Sun LD (2002) Soil and water erosion in its relation to slope field productivity in hilly gully areas of the Loess Plateau. Acta Ecol Sin 23:1463–1469Google Scholar
  7. Ciais PH, Reichstein M, Viovy N, Granier A, Ogée J, Allard V, Aubinet M, Buchmann N, Bernhofer C, Carrara A (2005) Europe-wide reduction in primary productivity caused by the heat and drought in 2003. Nature 437:529–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dai QH, Liu GB, Xue S, Yin N, Zhang C, Lan X (2008) Effect of different vegetation restoration on soil carbon and carbon management index in eroded hilly Loess Plateau. Res Soil Water Conserv 15:61–65 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  9. De Deyn GB, Cornelissen JHC, Bardgett RD (2008) Plant functional traits and soil carbon sequestration in contrasting biomes. Ecol Lett 11:516–531CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Deng L, Liu GB, Shangguan ZP (2014) Land-use conversion and changing soil carbon stocks in China’s ‘Grain-for-Green’Program: a synthesis. Glob Chang Biol 20:3544–3556CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Deng L, Wang KB, Tang ZS, Shangguan ZP (2016a) Soil organic carbon dynamics following natural vegetation restoration: evidence from stable carbon isotopes (δ13C). Agric Ecosyst Environ 221:235–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Deng L, Yan WM, Zhang YW, Shangguan ZP (2016b) Severe depletion of soil moisture following land-use changes for ecological restoration: evidence from northern China. For Ecol Manag 366:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Díaz-Hernández JL, Fernández EB (2008) The effect of petrocalcic horizons on the content and distribution of organic carbon in a Mediterranean semiarid landscape. Catena 74:80–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ekelund F, Rønn R, Christensen S (2001) Distribution with depth of protozoa, bacteria and fungi in soil profiles from three Danish forest sites. Soil Biol Biochem 33:475–481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. FAO/UNESCO Soil Map of the World [EB/OL] (n.d.) Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations website;
  16. Fu BJ, Chen LD, Qiu Y, Wang J, Meng QH (2003) Land use structure and ecological processes in the losses hilly area, China. Quat Sci 23:247–255 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  17. Fu BJ, Wang YF, Lu YH, He CS, Chen LD, Song CJ (2009) The effects of land-use combinations on soil erosion: a case study in the Loess Plateau of China. Prog Phys Geogr 33:793–804CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Han FP, Hu W, Zheng JY, Du F, Zhang XC (2010) Estimating soil organic carbon storage and distribution in a catchment of Loess Plateau, China. Geoderma 154:261–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. He XB, Li ZB, Hao MD, Tang KL, Zheng FL (2003) Down-scale analysis for water scarcity in response to soil–water conservation on Loess Plateau of China. Agric Ecosyst Environ 94:355–361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. He SX, Liang ZS, Han RL, Wang Y, Liu GB (2016) Soil carbon dynamics during grass restoration on abandoned sloping cropland in the hilly area of the Loess Plateau, China. Catena 137:679–685CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Heisler-White JL, Knapp AK, Kelly EF (2008) Increasing precipitation event size increases aboveground net primary productivity in a semi-arid grassland. Oecologia 158:129–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hou QC, Huang X, Han SF (1991) Study on the forming of “small olded tree” and the transforming way in the Loess Plateau. J Soil Water Conserv 1:64–72 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  23. Jobbágy EG, Jackson RB (2000) The vertical distribution of soil organic carbon and its relation to climate and vegetation. Ecol Appl 10:423–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kou M, Jiao J, Wang QL (2016) Fine root distribution characteristics of plant community in different vegetation zones in hill-gully region of Loess Plateau. Trans Chin Soc Agric Mach 46:161–171 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  25. Laganiere J, Angers DA, Pare D (2010) Carbon accumulation in agricultural soils after afforestation: a meta-analysis. Glob Chang Biol 16:439–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lal R (2004a) Soil carbon sequestration impacts on global climate change and food security. Science 304:1623–1627CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lal R (2004b) Soil carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change. Geoderma 123:1–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lal R (2009) Sequestering carbon in soils of arid ecosystems. Land Degrad Dev 20:441–454CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Langley JA, Hungate BA (2003) Mycorrhizal controls on belowground litter quality. Ecology 84:2302–2312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Li FM, Song QH, Jjemba PK, Shi YC (2004) Dynamics of soil microbial biomass C and soil fertility in cropland mulched with plastic film in a semiarid agro-ecosystem. Soil Biol Biochem 36:1893–1902CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Li JZ, Lin S, Taube F, Pan QM, Dittert K (2011) Above and belowground net primary productivity of grassland influenced by supplemental water and nitrogen in Inner Mongolia. Plant Soil 340:253–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Li DJ, Niu SL, Luo YQ (2012) Global patterns of the dynamics of soil carbon and nitrogen stocks following afforestation: a meta-analysis. New Phytol 195:172–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Liu ZP, Shao MA, Wang YQ (2013) Large-scale spatial interpolation of soil pH across the Loess Plateau, China. Environ Earth Sci 69:2731–2741CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Liu WG, Wei J, Cheng JM, Li WJ (2014) Profile distribution of soil inorganic carbon along a chronosequence of grassland restoration on a 22-year scale in the Chinese Loess Plateau. Catena 121:321–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Liu SJ, Zhang W, Wang K, Pan FJ, Yang S, Shu SY (2015) Factors controlling accumulation of soil organic carbon along vegetation succession in a typical karst region in Southwest China. Sci Total Environ 521:52–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mi NA, Wang SQ, Liu JY, Yu GR, Zhang WJ, Jobbagy E (2008) Soil inorganic carbon storage pattern in China. Glob Chang Biol 14:2380–2387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Porporato A, D’odorico P, Laio F, Ridolfi L, Rodriguez-Iturbe I (2002) Ecohydrology of water-controlled ecosystems. Adv Water Resour 25:1335–1348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Qiao N, Xu XL, Cao GM, Ouyang H, Kuzyakov Y (2015) Land use change decreases soil carbon stocks in Tibetan grasslands. Plant Soil 395:231–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sartori F, Lal R, Ebinger MH, Eaton JA (2007) Changes in soil carbon and nutrient pools along a chronosequence of poplar plantations in the Columbia Plateau, Oregon, USA. Agric Ecosyst Environ 122:325–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Si J, Nasiri FZ, Han P, Li TH (2014) Variation in ecosystem service values in response to land use changes in Zhifanggou watershed of Loess Plateau: a comparative study. Environ Syst Res 3:2CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Su Y, Jiao JY, Ma XH (2012) Seasonal variation of aboveground biomass of main plant communities and its relationship with soil moisture in the hill-gully Loess Plateau. Res Soil Water Conserv 19:8–12 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  42. Vivoni ER, Rinehart AJ, Méndez-Barroso LA, Aragón CA, Bisht G, Cardenas MB, Engle E, Forman BA, Frisbee MD, Gutiérrez-Jurado HA (2008) Vegetation controls on soil moisture distribution in the Valles Caldera, New Mexico, during the North American monsoon. Ecohydrology 1:225–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Walkley AJ, Black IA (1934) An examination of the degtjareff method for determining soil organic matter, and a proposed modification of the chromic acid titration method. Soil Sci 37:29–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wang L, Shao MA, Wang QJ, Jia ZK (2004) Review of research on soil desiccation in the Loess Plateau. Trans CSAE 20:27–31 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  45. Wang L, Wang QJ, Wei SP, Shao MA, Li Y (2008) Soil desiccation for loess soils on natural and regrown areas. For Ecol Manag 255:2467–2477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wang ZQ, Liu BY, Liu G, Zhang YX (2009) Soil water depletion depth by planted vegetation on the Loess Plateau. Sci China Ser D 52:835–842Google Scholar
  47. Wang YG, Li Y, Ye XH, Chu Y, Wang XP (2010a) Profile storage of organic/inorganic carbon in soil: from forest to desert. Sci Total Environ 408:1925–1931CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wang YQ, Shao MA, Shao HB (2010b) A preliminary investigation of the dynamic characteristics of dried soil layers on the Loess Plateau of China. J Hydrol 381:9–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wang YF, Fu BJ, Liu YH, Chen LD (2011a) Effects of vegetation restoration on soil organic carbon sequestration at multiple scales in semi-arid Loess Plateau, China. Catena 85:58–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wang YQ, Shao MA, Zhu YJ, Liu ZP (2011b) Impacts of land use and plant characteristics on dried soil layers in different climatic regions on the Loess Plateau of China. Agric For Meteorol 151:437–448CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wang YQ, Shao MA, Liu ZP, Warrington D (2012a) Regional spatial pattern of deep soil water content and its influencing factors. Hydrol Sci J 57:265–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Wang XJ, Wang JP, Zhang J (2012b) Comparisons of three methods for organic and inorganic carbon in calcareous soils of northwestern China. PLoS One 7:e44334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wang WJ, Su DX, Qiu L, Wang HY, An J, Zheng GY, Zu YG (2013a) Concurrent changes in soil inorganic and organic carbon during the development of larch, Larix gmelinii, plantations and their effects on soil physicochemical properties. Environ Earth Sci 69:1559–1570CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Wang ZP, Han XG, Chang SX, Wang B, Yu Q, Hou LY, Li LH (2013b) Soil organic and inorganic carbon contents under various land uses across a transect of continental steppes in Inner Mongolia. Catena 109:110–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wang KB, Ren ZP, Deng L, Zhou ZC, Shangguan ZP, Shi WY, Chen YP (2016) Profile distributions and controls of soil inorganic carbon along a 150-year natural vegetation restoration chronosequence. Soil Sci Soc Am J 80:193–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Xiao L, Xue S, Liu GB, Zhang C (2014) Soil moisture variability under different land uses in the Zhifanggou catchment of the Loess Plateau, China. Arid Land Res Manag 28:274–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Yang Y, Fang J, Ji C, Ma W, Mohammat A, Wang S, Wang S, Datta A, Robinson D, Smith P (2012a) Widespread decreases in topsoil inorganic carbon stocks across China’s grasslands during 1980s-2000s. Glob Chang Biol 18:3672–3680CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Yang L, Wei W, Chen LD, Mo BR (2012b) Response of deep soil moisture to land use and afforestation in the semi-arid Loess Plateau, China. J Hydrol 475:111–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Yang L, Wei W, Chen LD, Chen WL, Wang JL (2014) Response of temporal variation of soil moisture to vegetation restoration in semi-arid Loess Plateau, China. Catena 115:123–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Zhang B, He C, Burnham M, Zhang L (2016) Evaluating the coupling effects of climate aridity and vegetation restoration on soil erosion over the Loess Plateau in China. Sci Total Environ 539:436–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Zhao JB (2000) A new geological theory about eluvial zone—theory illuvial on depth of CaCO3. Acta Sedimentol Sin 18:29–35 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  62. Zhao J, Dong YS, Wang YQ, Wei XR, Wang YF, Cui BL, Zhou WJ (2014) Natural vegetation restoration is more beneficial to soil surface organic and inorganic carbon sequestration than tree plantation on the Loess Plateau of China. Sci Total Environ 485:615–623Google Scholar
  63. Zhao W, Zhang R, Huang CQ, Wang BQ, Cao H, Koopal LK, Tan WF (2016) Effect of different vegetation cover on the vertical distribution of soil organic and inorganic carbon in the Zhifanggou watershed on the Loess Plateau. Catena 139:191–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Zhao D, Xu MX, Liu GB, Ma LY, Zhang SM, Xiao TQ, Peng GY (2017) Effect of vegetation type on microstructure of soil aggregates on the Loess Plateau, China. Agric Ecosyst Environ 242:1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess Plateau, Institute of Soil and Water ConservationChinese Academy of Sciences & Ministry of Water ResourcesYanglingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Institute of Soil and Water ConservationNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Graduate School of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Department of Resources and EnvironmentHuazhong Agricultural UniversityWuhanPeople’s Republic of China

Personalised recommendations