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Trees increase soil carbon and its stability in three agroforestry systems in central Alberta, Canada

Forest Ecology and Management


Agroforestry land-use systems have significant potential for increasing soil carbon (C) storage and mitigating increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations. We studied the impact of three agroforestry systems (hedgerow, shelterbelt, and silvopasture) on soil organic C (SOC) and nitrogen (N) in the 0-10 cm mineral layer, by comparing SOC and N distributions in whole soils and three particle-size fractions (<53, 53-250, 250-2000 mu m) to assess the potential role of physical protection on soil C and N storage. We assessed thirty-five sites (12 hedgerows, 11 shelterbelts and 12 silvopastures), each comprised of 2 paired plots (forest and adjacent agricultural herbland), that were distributed along a 270 km long north-south soil/climate gradient in central Alberta, Canada. Across all sites, 48.4%, 28.5%, and 23.1% of SOC was found in the fine (<53 mu m), medium (53-250 mu m) and coarse fractions (250-2000 mu m), respectively. Mean SOC in the whole soil was 62.5, 47.7 and 81.3 g kg(-1) in hedgerow, shelterbelt and silvopasture systems, respectively. Soil C in the more stable fine fraction was 34.3, 28.8 and 29.3 g kg(-1) in the hedgerow, shelterbelt and silvopasture systems, respectively. Within each agroforestry system, the forested land-use consistently had greater total SOC and SOC in all size fractions than the agricultural component. Our results demonstrate the potential for trees to increase soil C sequestration in agroforestry systems within the agricultural landscape. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Author(s): Baah-Acheamfour, M; Carlyle, CN; Bork, EW; Chang, SX

Journal: Forest Ecology and Management

Year: 2014