Estimating and mapping the carbon saturation deficit of French agricultural topsoils.

Abstract : The concept of soil organic C (SOC) saturation suggests that the quantity of stable SOC is limited and determined by the amount of fine particles (clay + fine silt, Clay + fSilt). The difference between the theoretical SOC saturation value and the measured SOC one for the fine fraction corresponds to the soil's saturation deficit and may represent the potential for SOC sequestration in a stable form. We calculate the saturation deficit of French arable soils based on the national soil test database and using the saturation equation. For the whole database (n = 1 454 633), the median saturation deficit was 8.1 gC/kg and this generally increased with the Clay + fSilt content to reach a maximum of 500 g/kg. National mapping of the SOC saturation deficit allowed investigation of spatial variation and controlling factors. Saturated soils were found in localities with specific land use (grassland, meadows) or farming systems (livestock production with high manure production). Smaller deficits occurred at higher altitudes, probably due to the combined effect of cooler temperature and the presence of meadows. Some very sandy soils appeared to be almost saturated, largely due to their very small fine fraction. Soils in the highly cultivated plains in the northern half of the country had a significant saturation deficit. Soils in the southern part of the country had the highest saturation deficit because of the combined effects of climatic factors (low production, high temperature) and land use (vineyards, orchards). Analysis of communal data revealed significant correlations at the national level with Clay + fSilt (r = 0.59), pH (r = 0.44) but also with the proportion of grassland in the cultivated area (r = −0.47). Some areas had apparent oversaturation which may be due to uncertainty associated with the theoretical C saturation equation because of overestimation of the stable soil C fraction. Mapping the C saturation deficit at the national scale demonstrates the influence of climate, soil parameters and land use on the SOC stabilization potential and indicates that a significant proportion of agricultural soils have potential for further SOC storage.
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D.A. Angers, D. Arrouays, N.P.A. Saby, Christian Walter. Estimating and mapping the carbon saturation deficit of French agricultural topsoils.. Soil Use and Management, Wiley, 2011, 27 (4), pp.448-452. ⟨10.1111/j.1475-2743.2011.00366.x⟩. ⟨hal-00729327⟩

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