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Controls on Soil Organic Carbon and Nitrogen in Inner Mongolia, China: A Cross-Continental Comparison of Temperate Grasslands

Evans, S. E.
Burke, Ingrid
Lauenroth, William K.
Most global ecosystem models assume that controls over soil organic matter are alike in climatically similar regions. In this study, we tested the generality of controls over soil organic carbon (SOC) and soil organic nitrogen (SON) in temperate grasslands. We measured organic matter pools in Inner Mongolia, China, along the Northeast China Transect, and analyzed the relationship of SOC and SON to climate, soil texture, and land use variables. We then compared our data to values simulated by a regression model developed in the U.S. Great Plains and also to Century model simulations. We found that, as in the U.S. Great Plains, climate and soil texture variables could explain a large proportion of variation in observed SOC and SON, but a regression model developed in the Great Plains overestimated SOC and underestimated SON in Inner Mongolia. Using Century, we found that simulated SOC and SON values were sensitive to both inclusion of altered land use and changes in N deposition and that the model that best fit our data included higher-intensity grazing and N deposition values higher than that in the Great Plains. This model also produced aboveground net primary production (ANPP) values comparable with values observed in the literature for Inner Mongolian grasslands, but these values were higher than ANPP predicted by previously published regression models. These results suggest that different controls over SOC and SON cycling in Inner Mongolia may affect our ability to predict SOC and SON pool sizes using relationships in other regional models.
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