Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 19, Issue 10, pp 3564–3575 | Cite as

Effects of water erosion on soil organic carbon stability in the subtropical China

  • Xiaodong Nie
  • Zaijian Yuan
  • Bin Huang
  • Yishan Liao
  • Xuqin Zhang
  • Zhongwu LiEmail author
  • Dingqiang LiEmail author
Soils, Sec 5 • Soil and Landscape Ecology • Research Article



How the stability of soil organic carbon (SOC) is affected by soil erosion is still not clear. The main purpose of this study was to characterize how SOC stability is affected by erosion and assess the effects of different soil properties on SOC stability.

Materials and methods

Soils from eroding and depositional sites in a typical small watershed in subtropical China were collected, and soil samples from four different depths (0–5, 5–10, 20–30, and 120–150 cm) were selected to represent the profile. Soil physicochemical properties as well as soil organic matter (SOM) chemical structure were measured. Thermal analysis and mineralization incubation experiments were performed to study the SOM stability. The effects of the soil properties on the SOM stability were evaluated via redundancy analysis.

Results and discussion

The results showed that the eroding and depositional sites had different SOC contents but had similar organic functional groups. Furthermore, the OC in the eroded soils was more stable than that in the deposited soils, but this difference was only observed in the surface layers (0–5 and 5–10 cm). The selected variables (including soil texture, bulk density, pH, SOC, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), iron, soil aggregates, depth, erosion, and deposition) significantly explained the variations in SOC stability. A total of 91.4% of the variation in the thermogravimetry (TG)-T50 (the temperature resulting in 50% of SOM loss) and 98.9% of the variation in the CO2 emissions were explained by these variables. SOC alone contributed to 68% of the variation in the TG-T50, whereas DOC individually contributed 93.9% of the variation in the CO2 emissions.


SOC and DOC contents are the most important soil properties influencing SOC stability, and SOC stability affected by soil erosion is mainly by displacing SOM.


CO2 emission Soil erosion Soil organic carbon SOC stability Thermal stability 



This paper was supported by the National key research and development program of China (2017YFC0505404), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41807069), GDAS’ Project of Science and Technology Development (2018GDASCX-1002), the Scientific Platform and Innovation Capability Construction Program of GDAS (2016GDASPT-0304), and China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2018M643029).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Guangdong Key Laboratory of Integrated Agro-environmental Pollution Control and ManagementGuangdong Institute of Eco-environmental Science and TechnologyGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.College of Environmental Science and EngineeringHunan UniversityChangshaPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Environmental Biology and Pollution Control (Hunan University)Ministry of EducationChangshaPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Guangdong Academy of SciencesGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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