Agricultural soil organic carbon stocks in the north-eastern Iberian Peninsula: Drivers and spatial variability

Sci Total Environ. 2019 Jun 10;668:283-294. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.02.317. Epub 2019 Feb 22.


Estimating soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks under agriculture, assessing the importance of their drivers and understanding the spatial distribution of SOC stocks are crucial to predicting possible future SOC stocks scenarios under climate change conditions and to designing appropriate mitigation and adaptation strategies. This study characterized and modelled SOC stocks at two soil depth intervals, topsoil (0-30 cm) and subsoil (30-100 cm), based on both legacy and recent data from 7245 agricultural soil profiles and using environmental drivers (climate, agricultural practices and soil properties) for agricultural soils in Catalonia (NE Spain). Generalized Least Square (GLS) and Geographical Weighted Regression (GWR) were used as modelling approaches to: (i) assess the main SOC stock drivers and their effects on SOC stocks; (ii) analyse spatial variability of SOC stocks and their relationships with the main drivers; and (iii) predict and map SOC stocks at the regional scale. While topsoil variation of SOC stocks depended mainly on climate, soil texture and agricultural variables, subsoil SOC stocks changes depended mainly on soil attributes such us soil texture, clay content, soil type or depth to bedrock. The GWR model revealed that the relationship between SOC stocks and drivers varied spatially. Finally, the study was only able to predict and map topsoil SOC stocks at the regional scale, because controlling factors of SOC stocks at the subsoil level were largely unavailable for digital mapping. According to the resulting map, the mean SOC stock value for Catalan agriculture at the topsoil level was 4.88 ± 0.89 kg/m2 and the total magnitude of the carbon pool in agricultural soils of Catalonia up to 30 cm reached 47.9 Tg. The present study findings are useful for defining carbon sequestration strategies at the regional scale related with agricultural land use changes and agricultural management practices in a context of climate change.

Keywords: Agricultural SOC stocks; Generalized Least Square; Geographical weighted regression; Mediterranean agriculture; Mitigation strategies.