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Assessment of vegetation change and landscape variability by using stable carbon isotopes of soil organic matter

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Krull, E. G. and Bray, S. G. (2005) Assessment of vegetation change and landscape variability by using stable carbon isotopes of soil organic matter. Australian Journal of Botany, 53 (7). pp. 651-661. ISSN 00671924 (ISSN)

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Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-005-0155-x


Stable carbon isotopic (δ13C) analyses of soil organic matter (SOM) have been used in the past to characterise C3-C4 vegetation changes. However, the temporal and spatial resolution of these isotopic data are not well established. Here, we present data from δ13C analyses of whole and size-separated SOM, which are discussed in conjunction with organic (total organic carbon (TOC) content) and inorganic (%clay) soil data. These data are put into context with the current vegetation state (assessed from tree size-class distribution) and the 50-year vegetation history (assessed from aerial photographs). By linking below- and above-ground datasets, we show that δ13C analyses of SOM can accurately record vegetation-change histories over short- (10 and 50 years) and longer-term (hundreds of years) time scales. Our data also show that spatial variability was relatively small for the clay TOC content but was much larger for δ13C data, indicating that the number of soil cores required for statistical significance is highly dependent on the kind of measurements intended. Finally, interpretation of δ13C data from SOM to assess the history of C3-C4 vegetation change is complicated by the inherent 13C-enrichment of SOM, owing to decomposition processes, which occurs regardless of vegetation change. We suggest a method for distinguishing 13C-enrichment of SOM that is due to soil-inherent (decomposition-related) processes from 13C-enrichment that is due to increased inputs of C4 organic matter. © CSIRO 2005.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Animal Science
Keywords:C3 plant C4 plant carbon isotope soil organic matter stable isotope vegetation dynamics Eucalyptus populnea rainfall gradient arid and semiarid woodlands root-to-shoot ratio vertical root distribution pattern vegetation thickening Australia
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agriculture and the environment
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural meteorology. Crops and climate
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Soil conservation and protection
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Conservation of natural resources
Forestry > Research. Experimentation
Agriculture > By region or country > Australia
Live Archive:30 Nov 2022 04:33
Last Modified:30 Nov 2022 04:33

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