Plant and Soil

, Volume 328, Issue 1–2, pp 433–446 | Cite as

Carbon storage in relation to soil size-fractions under tropical tree-based land-use systems

  • Subhrajit K. Saha
  • P. K. Ramachandran Nair
  • Vimala D. Nair
  • B. Mohan Kumar
Regular Article


The extent of carbon (C) sequestration in soils under agroforestry systems in relation to soil types (fraction sizes) and vegetation structure remains largely unexplored. This study examined soil C storage, an indicator of C sequestration potential, in homegardens (HGs), natural forest, and single-species stands of coconut (Cocos nucifera), rice (Oryza sativa)-paddy, and rubber (Hevea brasiliensis), in Thrissur district, Kerala, India. Soil samples collected from four depth zones up to 1 m were fractionated to three size classes (250 – 2000 µm, 53 – 250 µm,  < 53 µm) and their total C content determined. Total C stock (Mg ha−1) was highest in forests (176.6), followed by managed tree-based systems, and lowest in rice-paddy field (55.6). The results show storage of higher amounts of C in the  < 53 µm fraction, the most stable form of C in soil, up to one- meter depth, in land-use systems with high stand density of trees such as forests and small-sized HG. Although the results do not allow comparison of changes in soil C stock in different land-use systems, they show higher C storage in soils under tree-based land-use systems compared with the treeless (rice-paddy) system, especially in lower soil depths, suggesting the higher soil C sequestration potential of tree-based systems, and thereby their role in reducing atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide.


Agroforestry Carbon sequestration Global warming Homegarden Soil aggregates 



Agroforestry systems


Carbon sequestration potential


Greenhouse gas




Large homegarden


Small homegarden


Soil organic carbon


  1. Albrecht A, Kandji ST (2003) Carbon sequestration in tropical agroforestry systems. Agric Ecosyst Environ 99:15–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andrade HJ, Brook R, Ibrahim M (2008) Growth, production and carbon sequestration of silvopastoral systems with native timber species in the dry lowlands of Costa Rica. Plant Soil 308:11–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bellamy PH, Loveland PJ, Bradley RI, Lark RM, Kirk GJD (2005) Carbon losses from all soils across England. Nature 437:245–248CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Brady NC, Weil RR (2008) The nature and properties of soil (14th edition). Prentice Hall, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Carter MR (1996) Analysis of soil organic matter in agroecosystems. In: Carter MR, Stewart BA (eds) Structure and organic matter storage in agricultural soil. CRC press, Boca Raton, pp 3–11Google Scholar
  6. Chandrashekara UM, Ramakrishnan PS (1994) Vegetation and gap dynamics of a tropical wet evergreen forest in the Western Ghats of Kerala, India. J Trop Ecol 10:337–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Day PR (1965) Particle fractionation and particle-size analysis. In: Black CA (ed) Methods of soil analysis, Part 1. ASA, Madison, pp 545–567Google Scholar
  8. Dea G, Assiri AA, Gabla OR, Boa D (2001) Influence of soil preparation method on root and vegetative growth of rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) in the southwest Côte d’Ivoire. Soil Till Res 59:3–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Elliott ET (1986) Aggregate structure and carbon nitrogen and phosphorus in native and cultivated soils. Soil Sci Soc Am J 50:627–633Google Scholar
  10. Fassbender HW, Beer J, Heuveldop J, Imbach A, Enriquez G, Bonnemann A (1991) Ten year balances of organic matter and nutrients in agroforestry systems at CATIE, Costa Rica. For Ecol Manage 45:173–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fernandes ECM, Nair PKR (1986) An evaluation of the structure and function of tropical homegardens. Agrofor Syst 21:279–310Google Scholar
  12. Government of Kerala (2005) Soil and land resources of Madakkathara panchayat. Soil Survey Organization, Report no. 468. Kerala, IndiaGoogle Scholar
  13. Government of Kerala (2008) Available via Accessed 16 Jan 2009
  14. Haile SG, Nair PKR, Nair VD (2008) Carbon storage of different soil-size fractions in Florida silvopastoral systems. J Environ Qual 37:1789–1797CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Haile SG, Nair VD, Nair PKR (2009) Contribution of trees to carbon storage in soils of silvopastoral systems in Florida, USA. Global Change Biology doi:  10.1111/j.1365-2486.2009.01981.x. (in press)
  16. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2007) Climate change 2000: The scientific basis. Oxford Univ Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  17. Isaac ME, Gordon AM, Thevathasan N, Oppong SK, Quashie-Sam J (2005) Temporal changes in soil carbon and nitrogen in west African multistrata agroforestry systems: a chronosequence of pools and fluxes. Agrofor Syst 65:23–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Isaac SR, Nair MA (2006) Litter dynamics of six multipurpose trees in a homegarden in southern Kerala India. Agrofor Syst 67:203–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jose D, Shanmugaratnam N (1993) Traditional homegardens of Kerala: A sustainable human ecosystem. Agrofor Syst 24:203–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. KAU (2009) Package of practices. Available at Last accessed: May 2009
  21. Kirby KR, Potvin C (2007) Variation in carbon storage among tree species: Implications for the management of a small scale carbon sink project. For Ecol Manage 246:208–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kumar BM, George SJ, Chinnamani S (1994) Diversity structure and standing stock of wood in the homegardens of Kerala in peninsular India. Agrofor Syst 25:243–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kumar BM, Nair PKR (2006) Tropical homegardens: A time-tested example of sustainable agroforestry. Springer, Netherlands, p 377Google Scholar
  24. Kusnarta IGM, Tisdall J, Sukartono M, Ma’shum M, Gill JS, VanCooten D (2004) Rice root distribution under various systems of soil management on rainfed Vertisols in Southern Lombok, Eastern Indonesia. New directions for a diverse planet: Proceedings of the 4th International Crop Science Congress, Brisbane, Australia, 26 Sep – 1 Oct 2004Google Scholar
  25. Lehmann J, da Silva Cravo M, Zech W (2001) Organic matter stabilisation in a Xanthic Ferralsol of the central Amazon as affected by single trees: chemical characterisation of density, aggregate and particle size fractions. Geoderm 99:147–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lemma B, Kleja DB, Olsson M, Nilsson I (2007) Factors controlling soil organic carbon sequestration under exotic tree plantations: A case study using the CO2Fix model in southwestern Ethiopia. For Ecol Manage 252:124–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Makundi WR, Sathaye JA (2004) GHG mitigation potential and cost in tropical forestry — relative role for agroforestry. Environ Dev Sust 6:235–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mohan S, Nair PKR, Long AJ (2007) An assessment of the ecological diversity of homegardens: A case study of Kerala State, India. J Sust Agric 29:135–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nair PKR (1979) Multiple cropping with coconuts in India. Verlag Paul Parey, Berlin 147 pGoogle Scholar
  30. Nair PKR (1993) An introduction to agroforestry. Kluwer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands 499 pGoogle Scholar
  31. Nair PKR, Kumar BM, Nair VD (2009) Agroforestry as a strategy for carbon sequestration. J Soil Sci Plant Nutr. 172:10–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Nair MA, Sreedharan C (1986) Agroforestry farming systems in the homesteads of Kerala southern India. Agrofor Syst 4:339–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nair PKR, Nair VD (2003) Carbon storage in North American Agroforestry Systems. In: Kimble J et al (eds) The Potential of U.S. Forest Soils to Sequester Carbon and Mitigate the Greenhouse Effect. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 333–346Google Scholar
  34. Oelbermann M, Voroney RP, Kass DCL, Schlönvoigt AM (2006) Soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics using stable isotopes in 19- and 10-year-old tropical agroforestry systems. Geoderma 130:356–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Peyre A, Guidal A, Wiersum KF, Bongers F (2006) Dynamics of homegarden structure and function in Kerala, India. Agrofor Syst 66:101–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Reyes-Reyes G, Baron-Ocampo L, Cuali-Alvarez I, Frias-Hernandez JT, Olalde-Portugal V, Fregoso LV, Dendooven L (2002) Carbon and nitrogen dynamics in soil from the central highlands of Mexico as affected by mesquite (Prosopis spp.) and huizache (Acacia tortuoso): A laboratory investigation. Appl Soil Ecol 19:27–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. SAS Institute (2004) SAS user’s guide: Statistics SAS/C Online DocTM Release 7.50 Cary, NC, USAGoogle Scholar
  38. Saha S, Nair PKR, Nair VD, Kumar BM (2009) Soil carbon stock in relation to plant diversity of homegardens in Kerala, India. Agrofor Syst 76:53–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schlesinger WH, Reynolds JE, Cunningham GL, Huenneke LF, Jarrell WM, Virginia RA, Whitford WG (1990) Biological feedbacks in global desertification. Science 247:1043–1048CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Sharrow SH, Ismail S (2004) Carbon and nitrogen storage in agroforests tree plantations and pastures in western Oregon, USA. Agrofor Syst 60:123–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Six J, Elliott ET, Paustian K (2000) Soil macroaggregate turnover and microaggregate formation: a mechanism for C sequestration under no-tillage agriculture. Soil Biol Biochem 32:2099–2103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Six J, Conant RT, Paul EA, Paustian K (2002) Stabilization mechanisms of soil organic matter: Implications for C-saturation of soils. Plant Soil 241:155–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Smiley GL, Kroschel J (2008) Temporal change in carbon stocks of cocoa—Gliricidia agroforests in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Agrofor Syst 73:219–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Swift MJ, Anderson JM (1993) Biodiversity and ecosystem function in agricultural systems. In: Schulze ED, Mooney HA (eds) Biodiversity and ecosystem function. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Germany, pp 15–42Google Scholar
  45. Takimoto A, Nair PKR, Nair VD (2008a) Carbon stock and sequestration potential of traditional and improved agroforestry systems in the West African Sahel. Agric Ecosyst Environ 125:159–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Takimoto A, Nair VD, Nair PKR (2008b) Contribution of trees to soil carbon sequestration under agroforestry systems in the West African Sahel. Agrofor Syst 76:11–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Tiessen H, Stewart JW (1983) Particle-size fractions and their use in studies of soil organic matter: II., Cultivation effects on organic matter composition in size fractions. Soil Sci Soc Am J 47:509–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Tilman D, Lehman CL, Thomson KT (1997) Plant diversity and ecosystem productivity: Theoretical considerations. Proc Nat Acad Sci (USA) 94:1857–1861CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tilman D, Reich PB, Knops J, Wedin D, Mielke T, Lehman C (2001) Diversity and productivity in the long-term grassland experiment. Science 294:843–845CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. UNFCCC (2009) Glossary of climate change ( Last accessed: May 2009
  51. Vandermeer J (1989) The ecology of intercropping. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 249 pGoogle Scholar
  52. Veldkamp E (1994) Organic carbon turnover in three tropical soils under pasture after deforestation. Soil Sci Soc Am J 58:175–180Google Scholar
  53. Wright DG, Mullen RW, Thomason WE, Raun WR (2001) Estimated land area increase of agricultural ecosystems to sequester excess atmospheric carbon dioxide. Commun Soil Sci Plant Anal 32:1803–1812CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Yelenik SG, Stock WD, Richardson DM (2004) Ecosystem level impacts of invasive Acacia saligna in the South African Fynbos. Rest Ecol 12:44–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Subhrajit K. Saha
    • 1
  • P. K. Ramachandran Nair
    • 1
  • Vimala D. Nair
    • 2
  • B. Mohan Kumar
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Forest Resources and Conservation, Institute of Food and Agricultural SciencesUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Soil and Water Science Department, Institute of Food and Agricultural SciencesUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Silviculture and AgroforestryKerala Agricultural UniversityKeralaIndia

Personalised recommendations