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Open AccessArticle

Conversion of a Semiarid Nevada Soil to Irrigated Agriculture Preferentially Removes Labile Carbon

1
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557, USA
2
Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Akron, CO 80720, USA
3
Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Soil Syst. 2018, 2(3), 38; https://doi.org/10.3390/soilsystems2030038
Received: 21 March 2018 / Revised: 13 May 2018 / Accepted: 15 June 2018 / Published: 22 June 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Organic Matter Dynamics)
Due to the scarcity of arable land, semiarid rangelands are often converted to irrigated croplands, which is likely to affect soil organic carbon (SOC) due to changes in C inputs into the soil and environmental factors regulating decomposition. In this study, soil density and particle size fractions as well as their C and N contents, stable isotopic composition, and chemical characterization by mid-infrared spectroscopy were measured in a native shrubland and an adjacent agricultural site under alfalfa cultivation for at least 50 years in western Nevada. Cultivation significantly reduced the amount of C and N in the surface soils and the proportion of C present in the labile fractions. The δ13C and δ15N values of the SOC reflected dominant vegetation types at each site, and suggested most SOC was root-derived. The potential decomposition rate of SOC was higher in the shrubland than in the alfalfa surface soil reflecting the larger amount of labile C present in the shrubland soils. Spectroscopy results suggested that the greater recalcitrance of the alfalfa soils was due to insoluble SOC moieties. Additional analyses of buried, SOC-rich, A horizons at both sites showed that slower decomposition of ‘deep’ SOC was due to lower substrate quality supported by fractionation and spectroscopy data. The results of this study showed that converting a semiarid shrubland into irrigated cropland significantly reduced SOC content but increased overall stability of residual SOC. View Full-Text
Keywords: land use change; semiarid rangeland; irrigated agriculture; soil organic matter; labile carbon; stable carbon; particle size fractionation; density fractionation land use change; semiarid rangeland; irrigated agriculture; soil organic matter; labile carbon; stable carbon; particle size fractionation; density fractionation
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MDPI and ACS Style

Trimble, B.R.; Calderon, F.J.; Poulson, S.R.; Verburg, P.S.J. Conversion of a Semiarid Nevada Soil to Irrigated Agriculture Preferentially Removes Labile Carbon. Soil Syst. 2018, 2, 38.

AMA Style

Trimble BR, Calderon FJ, Poulson SR, Verburg PSJ. Conversion of a Semiarid Nevada Soil to Irrigated Agriculture Preferentially Removes Labile Carbon. Soil Systems. 2018; 2(3):38.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Trimble, Brittany R.; Calderon, Francisco J.; Poulson, Simon R.; Verburg, Paul S.J. 2018. "Conversion of a Semiarid Nevada Soil to Irrigated Agriculture Preferentially Removes Labile Carbon" Soil Syst. 2, no. 3: 38.

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