Desertification control on soil inorganic and organic carbon accumulation in the topsoil of desert grassland in Ningxia, northwest China

Hui An, Qiao Ling Li, Xin Yan, Xiu Zhi Wu, Ren tao Liu, Yan Fang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Soil carbon is an essential part of the terrestrial carbon pool, which includes soil organic carbon (SOC) and soil inorganic carbon (SIC). Soils contain a huge amount of inorganic carbon in arid and semiarid regions, which may be a potential source of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere. Neglecting soil inorganic carbon could result in erroneous or misleading interpretations of the soil carbon pool of arid and semiarid ecosystems. Nevertheless, only a few studies have focused on variations of SIC, or have further used the soil stable carbon isotope to explore the inherent mechanism of SIC variations in semiarid regions. The study was designed to estimate the dynamic of SOC and SIC with the development of desertification in the topsoil. Here, four desertification stages were chosen, including potential desertification (PD), light desertification (LD), severe desertification (SD), and very severe desertification (VSD) stages, to evaluate the horizontal and vertical distributions of SOC and SIC, and the stable carbon isotope (δ13C) of SOC and SIC with the desertification development in the topsoil (0–30 cm soil layer). The SOC and SIC contents and storage changed significantly with desertification development. The PD stages had the highest SOC (21.01 mg/hm2) and SIC (11.60 mg/hm2) storage at 0–30 cm, while the contrary result for VSD stages, with the average of SOC and SIC, was 8.27 mg/hm2 and 6.15 mg/hm2, respectively. The vertical distribution of SIC and SOC has varied sharply with soil depth. The δ13C-SIC within the 0–30 cm soil profile in the PD stages were more negative than those in other desertification stages and gradually increased with desertification development. In contrast, the δ13C-SOC generally decreased with desertification progress. The entire data (108 soil samples) exhibited that δ13C-SIC were significantly and negatively correlated with δ13C-SOC and SIC content, while SIC storage was significantly and positively correlated with SOC storage. The results demonstrated that an increase of SOC might be related to enhancing accumulation of SIC. The results of this study provide information about the variation of SIC and SOC with the desertification development and contribute to our understanding of the important role of SIC in estimating the carbon sequestration capacity in the degraded grassland ecosystems in arid and semiarid regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)348-355
Number of pages8
JournalEcological Engineering
StatePublished - Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.


This work was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of Ningxia Province (grant number NZ17004 ); the Project of First-Class Disciplines of Western China for Ningxia Province (grant number NXYLXK2017B06 ), and the Open Project Program of Breeding Base for State Key Laboratory of Land Degradation and Ecological Restoration in North-western China / Key Laboratory for Restoration and Reconstruction of Degraded Ecosystem in North-western China of Ministry of Education (grant number 2017KF001 ).

FundersFunder number
Project of First-Class Disciplines of Western China for Ningxia ProvinceNXYLXK2017B06
Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China2017KF001
Natural Science Foundation of Ningxia ProvinceNZ17004


    • Carbon storage
    • Desertification
    • Soil inorganic carbon
    • Stable carbon isotope
    • Topsoil


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