Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Variations in soil organic carbon decompositions of different land use patterns on the tableland of Loess Plateau


Land use patterns are one of the critical factors affecting soil carbon sequestration or decomposition and greenhouse gas emissions. The accurate evaluation of its change is particularly crucial for the carbon cycle of the terrestrial ecosystem and global climate change. This paper examined the dynamic soil respiration by means of the indoor airtight culture method and static box-gas chromatography under the land uses of the farmland, natural grassland, shrub forestland, arbor and shrub mixed forestland, and arbor forestland on the tableland of Loess Plateau. The results showed that soil organic carbon mineralization and soil respiration rate were influenced by the land use type. (1) The content and rate of soil mineralizable carbon in grassland were significantly higher than that in forestland and farmland, and that in forestland significantly higher than that in the farmland (P < 0.05). The trend of organic carbon mineralization was rapid in the initial stage of culture (by the rate of 30.02~238.56 mg kg−1 h−1 in the first 0.5 h) and slowed down in the later stage (by the rate of 1.07~1.95 mg kg−1 h−1 in 1575 h). In the soil of grassland, the accumulation of mineralizable organic carbon in the 0–5-cm layer was 1.20~1.64 times that in the soil of forestland and 1.82 times that of farmland. Compared with the 0–5-cm soil layer, there were decreases in the 5–20-cm soil layer under all land uses, with a decline of up to 48% in farmland. (2) The soil carbon mineralization potential of different land use types ranged from 0.81 to 2.70 mg kg−1, that of grassland was significantly higher than that of farmland (P < 0.05), and the soil organic carbon decomposition rate constant (k) under shrub forestland was significantly higher than that under other land use types (P < 0.05). The highest organic carbon mineralization capacity and the lowest sequestration were in the soil of farmland, while that in grassland had the lowest organic carbon mineralization capacity and the highest sequestration. (3) The cumulative amount of soil respiration was highest under the natural grassland, followed by the shrub forestland, and lowest under the farmland. The soil respiration rate was positively correlated with soil temperature, and its correlation with soil water content was positive in the wet season (May through October) and negative in the dry season (November through April in the following year). (4) The soil respiration rate showed obvious seasonal differences. After the conversion of farmland to forestland, it would be rising in the content of soil organic carbon and labile organic carbon, and be going down in the temperature sensitivity (Q10). In summary, by converting farmland to forestland or grassland, the sequestration of soil organic carbon had greatly been enhanced, and the possibility of soil greenhouse gas emissions had reduced on the tableland of Loess Plateau.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5


  1. Azam S, Seyed MH, Ali RMB, Mostafa J, Rosa F (2019) Influence of land use and land cover change on soil organic carbon and microbial activity in the forests of northern Iran. Catena 177:227–237

  2. Bajracharya RM, Lal R, Kimble JM (2000) Diurnal and seasonal CO2-C flux from soil as related to erosion phases in Central Ohio. Soil Sci Soc Am J 64(1):286–293

  3. Buchmann N (2000) Biotic and abiotic factors controlling soil respiration rates in Picea abies stands. Soil Biol Biochem 32(11):1625–1635

  4. Cates MA, Braus JM, Whitman LT, Jackson RD (2019) Separate drivers for microbial carbon mineralization and physical protection of carbon. Soil Biol Biochem 133:72–82

  5. Conant RT, Dalla-Betta P, Klopatek CC, Klopatek JM (2004) Controls on soil respiration in semiarid soils. Soil Biol Biochem 36(6):945–951

  6. Deng L, Kim DG, Li MY, Huang CB, Liu QY, Cheng M, Shangguan ZP, Peng CH (2019) Land-use changes driven by ‘grain for green’ program reduced carbon loss induced by soil erosion on the loess plateau of China. Glob Planet Chang 177:101–115

  7. Ding XM, Xu XH, Xing SY, Zhao ZH, Shen JL, Li YM, Cheng J, Wang P, Rao JH, Wang HJ, Li HY, Zhang NS (2012) Application of data analysis by SPSS and figure construction by Excel in the graduation thesis. Res Explor Lab 31(3):122–128

  8. Dörr H, Münnich KO (1987) Annual variation in soil respiration in selected areas of the temperate zone. Tellus Ser B Chem Phys Meteorol 39B(1/2):114–121

  9. Fierer N, Allen AS, Schimel JP, Holden PA (2003) Controls on microbial CO2 production: a comparison of surface and subsurface soil horizons. Glob Chang Biol 9(9):1322–1332

  10. Gao Y, Fan J, Mi MX, Peng XP (2013) Influencing factors of soil respiration and their response to different land use types in the water-wind erosion crisscross region. J Plant Nutr Fertilizer 19(5):1207–1217

  11. Guo HM, Zhang YJ, Liu QF, Jiang JS, Li JC, Wang R, Li NN, Li RJ, Guo SL, Li CY (2014) Responses of soil respiration to land use changes in a semiarid region of Loess Plateau. J Nat Resour 29(10):1686–1695

  12. Hashimoto S (2005) Q10 values of soil respiration in Japanese forests. J For Res 10(5):409–413

  13. Holt JA, Hodgen MJ, Lamb D (1990) Soil respiration in the seasonally dry tropics near Townsville, North Queensland. Aust J Soil Res 28(5):737–745

  14. Huang JX, Lin TC, Xiong DC, Yang ZJ, Liu XF, Chen GS, Xie JS, Li YQ, Yang YS (2019) Organic carbon mineralization in soils of a natural forest and a forest plantation of southeastern China. Geoderma 344:119–126

  15. Huang ZS, Yu LF, Fu YH (2012) Characteristics of soil mineralizable carbon pool in natural restoration process of karst forest vegetation. Chin J Appl Ecol 23(8):2165–2170

  16. Ikabongo M, Mariko S, Ryusuke H (2019) Short-term land-use change from grassland to cornfield increases soil organic carbon and reduces total soil respiration. Soil Tillage Res 186:1–10

  17. IPCC (2000) Special report on emissions scenarios, working group III. Intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge UK:Cambridge University press

  18. Kang YX, Xia GW, Liu JJ, Zhou W, Chen GP (2014) Soil respiration characteristics in the clear-cutting site of Quercus aliena var. acuteserrata forest in Xiaolong Mountain in Qinling Mountains. Chin J Appl Ecol 25(2):342–350

  19. Leifeld J, Bassin S, Fuhrer J (2005) Carbon stocks in Swiss agricultural soils predicted by land-use, soil characteristics, and altitude. Agric Ecosyst Environ 105(1–2):255–266

  20. Li SJ, Qiu LP, Zhang XC (2010) Mineralization of soil organic carbon and its relations with soil physical and chemical properties on the Loess Plateau. Acta Ecol Sin 30(05):1217–1226

  21. Li XH, Zhu ZL, Dong HY, Yang LP, Guo HH (2015a) Effects of different return modes of wheat straws on greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration of maize fields. J Agro-Environ Sci 34(11):2228–2235

  22. Li YY, Qi L, Liu MY, Liu LW, Zhang YY (2015b) Decomposition of soil organic carbon in loess tableland relative to type of land use. J Ecol Rural Environ 31(3):346–352

  23. Li ZP, Zhang TL, Chen BY (2004) Soluble organic carbon content dynamic and its relationship with soil organic carbon mineralization. Acta Pedol Sin 41(04):544–552

  24. Liu XP, Zhang WJ, Zhang B, Yang QH, Chang JG, Hou K (2016) Diurnal variation in soil respiration under different land uses on Taihang Mountain, North China. Atmos Environ 125:283–292

  25. Liu YH, Ali M, Yang F, Yang XH, He Q (2015) Environmental factors driving winter soil respiration in the hinterland of the Taklimakan Desert, China. Acta Ecol Sin 35(20):6711–5719

  26. Luo YJ, Wei ZF, Li Y, Ren ZJ, Liao HP (2011) Effects of land use on distribution and protection of organic carbon in soil aggregates in karst rocky desertification area. Acta Ecol Sin 31(01):257–266

  27. Ma WY, Zhao CY, Peng SZ, Gao YF, Yuan YP, Li WJ (2015) Variation in soil respiration rate and factors affecting it in five vegetation types in Tianlaochi catchment in Heihe River. Acta Ecol Sin 35(17):5654–5664

  28. Martin MP, Wattenbach M, Smith P, Meersmans J, Jolivet C, Boulonne L, Arrouays D (2011) Spatial distribution of soil organic carbon stocks in France. Biogeosciences 8(5):1053–1065

  29. Meersmans J, De Ridder F, Canters F, De Baets S, Van Molle M (2008) A multiple regression approach to assess the spatial distribution of soil organic carbon (SOC) at the regional scale (Flanders, Belgium). Geoderma 143(1–2):1–13

  30. Melillo JM, Steudler PA, Aber JD, Newkirk K, Lux H, Bowles FP, Catricala C, Magill A, Ahrens T, Morrisseau S (2002) Soil warming and carboncycle feedbacks to the climate system. Science 298(5601):2173–2176

  31. Mitra E, Mohammad RS, Ali AS, Abbas A, Saskia K (2019) Estimating the soil respiration under different land uses using artificial neural network and linear regression models. Catena 174:371–382

  32. Moscatelli MC, Tizio AD, Marinari S, Grego S (2007) Microbial indicators related to soil carbon in Mediterranean land use systems. Soil Tillage Res 97(1):51–59

  33. Núnez S, Martínez-Yrízar A, Búrquez A, García-Oliva F (2001) Carbon mineralization in the southern Sonoran Desert. Acta Oecol 22:269–276

  34. Olajuyigbes TB, Saunders M, Nieuwenhuis M (2012) Forest thinning and soil respiration in a Sitka spruce forest in Ireland. Agric For Meteorol 157:86–95

  35. Ouyang W, Lai XH, Li X, Liu HY, Lin CY, Hao FH (2015) Soil respiration and carbon loss relationship with temperature and land use conversion in freeze-thaw agricultural area. Sci Total Environ 533:215–222

  36. Parton WJ, Schimel DS, Coleand CV, Ojima DS (1987) Analysis of factors controlling soil organic matter levels in Great Plains grasslands. Soil Sci Soc Am J 51:1173–1179

  37. Poeplau C, Don A, Vesterdal L, Leifeld J, Wesemael BV, Schumacher J, Gensior A (2011) Temporal dynamics of soil organic carbon after land-use change in the temperate zone - carbon response functions as a model approach. Glob Chang Biol 17(7):2415–2427

  38. Qi LB, Fan J, Shao MA, Wang WZ (2008) Seasonal changes in soil respiration under different land use patterns in the water-wind erosion crisscross region of the Loess Plateau. Acta Ecol Sin 28(11):5428–5436

  39. Raich JW, Potter CS (1995) Global patterns of carbon dioxide emissions from soil. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 9(1):23–26

  40. Raich JW, Schlesinger WH (1992) The global carbon dioxide flux in soil respiration and its relationship to vegetation and climate. Tellus 44(2):81–99

  41. Schlesinger WH, Andrews JA (2000) Soil respiration and the global carbon cycle. Biogeochemistry 48(1):7–20

  42. Shi P, Zhang Y, Li P, Li ZB, Yu KX, Ren ZP, Xu GC, Cheng SD, Wang FC, Ma YY (2019) Distribution of soil organic carbon impacted by land-use changes in a hilly watershed of the Loess Plateau, China. Sci Total Environ 652:505–512

  43. Shi WY, Yan MJ, Zhang JG, Guan JH, Du S (2014) Soil CO2 emissions from five different types of land use on the semiarid Loess Plateau of China, with emphasis on the contribution of winter soil respiration. Atmos Environ 88:74–82

  44. Shrestha RK, Lal R, Rimal B (2013) Soil carbon fluxes and balances and soil properties of organically amended no-till corn production systems. Geoderma 197/198(3):177–185

  45. Song Y, Zhao XZ, Mao ZJ, Sun T, Hou LL (2013) SOC decomposition of four typical broad-leaved Korean pine communities in Xiaoxing’an mountain. Acta Ecol Sin 33(02):443–453

  46. Sushmita M, Debarati B, Sangita M, Dibyendu C, Rahul T, Shahid M, Upendra K, Bhattacharyya P, Anjani K, Totan A, Hemant KJ, Nayak AK (2018) Dynamics of soil organic carbon mineralization and C fractions in paddy soil on application of rice husk biochar. Biomass Bioenergy 115:1–9

  47. Tu ZH, Pang Z, Zhao Y, Zheng LW, Yu XX, Chen LH (2015) Variations of soil respiration and controlling factors in a Platycladus orientalis plantation in the west mountains of Beijing. Res Environ Sci 28(1):58–65

  48. Wang GB, Tang YF, Ruan HH, Shi Z, He R, Wang Y, Lin F (2009) Seasonal variation of soil respiration and its main regulating factors in a secondary oak forest and a pine plantation in north-subtropical area in China. Acta Ecol Sin 29(2):966–975

  49. Wang QK, Wang SL, Yu XJ, Zhang J, Liu YX (2007) Soil carbon mineralization potential and its effect on soil active organic carbon in evergreen broad leaved forest and Chinese fir plantation. Chin J Ecol 26(12):1918–1923

  50. Wang R, Wang ZQ, Sun QQ, Zhao M, Du LL, Wu DF, Li RJ, Gao X, Guo SL (2016) Effects of crop types and nitrogen fertilization on temperature sensitivity of soil respiration in the semi-arid Loess Plateau. Soil Tillage Res 163:1–9

  51. Wang ZC, Liu SS, Huang C, Liu YY, Bu ZJ (2017) Impact of land use change on profile distributions of organic carbon fractions in peat and mineral soils in Northeast China. Catena 152:1–8

  52. Wei XR, Shao MA, Gale W, Li LH (2014) Global pattern of soil carbon losses due to the conversion of forests to agricultural land. Sci Rep 4:4062

  53. Wei SJ, Luo BZ, Sun L, Wei SW, Liu FF, Hu HQ (2013) Spatial and temporal heterogeneity and effect factors of soil respiration in forest ecosystems: a review. Ecol Environ Sci 22(4):689–704

  54. Wu JG, Ai L, Zhu G, Tian ZQ, Chang W (2007) Mineralization of soil organic carbon and its motivating factors to the dragon spruce forest and alpine meadows of the Qilian Mountains. Acta Agrestia Sinica 15(01):20–28

  55. Wu JG, Zhang XQ, Xu DY (2004) The mineralization of soil organic carbon under different land uses in the Liupan mountain forest zone. Acta Phytoecologica Sinica 28(4):530–538

  56. Wu JH, Pan JJ, Ge XJ, Wang HQ, Yu WF, Li BY (2015) Variations of soil organic carbon mineralization and temperature sensitivity under different land use type. J Soil Water Conserv 29(03):130–135

  57. Xie HH, Fan J, Qi LB, Hao MD (2010) Seasonal characteristics of soil respiration and affecting factors under typical vegetations in the water-wind erosion crisscross region of the Loess Plateau. Environ Sci 31(12):2995–3003

  58. Yin S, Bai JH, Wang W, Zhang GL, Jia J, Cui BS, Liu XH (2019) Effects of soil moisture on carbon mineralization in floodplain wetlands with different flooding frequencies. J Hydrol 574:1074–1084

  59. Zhang GX, Xu J, Wang GB, Wu SS, Ruan HH (2010) Soil respiration under different vegetation types in Nanjing urban green space. Chin J Ecol 29(2):274–280

  60. Zhang JJ, Yang H, Wang JS, Tian DS, Li Y, He NP, Niu SL (2019c) Soil and climate determine differential responses of soil respiration to nitrogen and acid deposition along a forest transect. Eur J Soil Biol 93:103097

  61. Zhang MM, Liu MY, Chang QR, Liu J, Liu H, Zhang J, Yang JH, Cao RS (2019a) Effects of topsoil organic carbon on the dynamic change in cultivated land in the tableland of the Loess Plateau in Shaanxi over the last thirty years. Acta Ecol Sin 39(18):1–9

  62. Zhang P, Li H, Jia ZK, Wang W, Lu WT, Zhang H, Yang BP (2011) Effects of straw returning on soil organic carbon and carbon mineralization in semi-arid areas of southern Ningxia, China. J Agro-Environ Sci 30(12):2518–2525

  63. Zhang W, Xu YD, Gao DX, Wang X, Liu WC, Deng J, Han XH, Yang GH, Feng YZ, Ren GX (2019b) Ecoenzymatic stoichiometry and nutrient dynamics along a revegetation chronosequence in the soils of abandoned land and Robinia pseudoacacia plantation on the Loess Plateau, China. Soil Biol Biochem 134:1–14

  64. Zhang YJ, Guo SL, Liu QF, Jiang JS, Wang R, Li NN (2015) Responses of soil respiration to land use conversions in degraded ecosystem of the semi-arid Loess Plateau. Ecol Eng 74:196–205

Download references


This work was supported by the National Program on Key Research Project (2016YFC0501703) and the Basic Research program of Natural Science in Shaanxi (2017JZ008).

Author information

Correspondence to Qingrui Chang.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Responsible editor: Zhihong Xu

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Liu, M., Liu, M., Li, P. et al. Variations in soil organic carbon decompositions of different land use patterns on the tableland of Loess Plateau. Environ Sci Pollut Res 27, 4337–4352 (2020).

Download citation


  • Land use patterns
  • Soil mineralizable carbon
  • Soil respiration
  • The tableland of Loess Plateau