Lower soil carbon stocks in exotic vs. native grasslands are driven by carbonate losses

Date
2020-01-01
Authors
Wilsey, Brian
Xu, Xia
Polley, H. Wayne
Hofmockel, Kirsten
Hall, Steven
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Abstract

Global change includes invasion by exotic (nonnative) plant species and altered precipitation patterns, and these factors may affect terrestrial carbon (C) storage. We measured soil C changes in experimental mixtures of all exotic or all native grassland plant species under two levels of summer drought stress (0 and +128 mm). After 8 yr, soils were sampled in 10‐cm increments to 100‐cm depth to determine if soil C differed among treatments in deeper soils. Total soil C (organic + inorganic) content was significantly higher under native than exotic plantings, and differences increased with depth. Surprisingly, differences after 8 yr in C were due to carbonate and not organic C fractions, where carbonate was ~250 g C/m2 lower to 1‐m soil depth under exotic than native plantings. Our results indicate that soil carbonate is an active pool and can respond to differences in plant species traits over timescales of years. Significant losses of inorganic C might be avoided by conserving native grasslands in subhumid ecosystems.

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This article is published as Wilsey, Brian, Xia Xu, H. Wayne Polley, Kirsten Hofmockel, and Steven J. Hall. "Lower soil carbon stocks in exotic vs. native grasslands are driven by carbonate losses." Ecology (2020): e03039. doi: 10.1002/ecy.3039.

Keywords
C4 grasses, carbon storage, inorganic carbon, invasive species, novel ecosystems, organic carbon, prairie, soil depth, tallgrass prairie
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