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You are here: Home › Long-term bare fallow experiments offer new opportunities for the quantification and the study of stable carbon in soil
Publication from the CARBOSOIL project.
The stability of soil carbon is a major source of uncertainty for the prediction of atmospheric CO2 concentration during the 21st century. Isolating experimentally the stable soil carbon from other, more vulnerable, pools is of prime importance for calibrating soil C models, and gaining insights on the mechanisms leading to soil organic carbon (SOC) stability. Long-term bare fallow experiments, in which the decay of SOC is monitored for decades after inputs from plant material have stopped, represent a unique opportunity to assess the stable organic carbon. We synthesized data from 6 bare fallow experiments of long-duration, covering a range of soil types and climate conditions, at Askov (Denmark), Grignon and Versailles (France), Kursk (Russia), Rothamsted (UK), and Ultuna (Sweden).
The conceptual model of SOC being divided into three pools with increasing turnover times, a labile pool (~ years), an intermediate pool (~ decades) and a stable pool (~ several centuries or more) fits well with the long term SOC decays observed in bare fallow soils. The modeled stable pool estimates ranged from 2.7 gC kg-1 at Rothamsted to 6.8 gC kg-1 at Grignon. The uncertainty over the identification of the stable pool is large due to the short length of the fallow records relative to the time scales involved in the decay of soil C. At Versailles, where there is least uncertainty associated with the determination of a stable pool, the soil contains predominantly stable C after 80 years of continuous bare fallow. Such a site represents a unique research platform for future experimentation addressing the characteristics of stable SOC and its vulnerability to global change.