Increases in soil organic carbon sequestration can reduce the global warming potential of long-term liming to permanent grassland

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Fornara, D. A., Steinbeiss, S., Mcnamara, N. P., Gleixner, G., Oakley, S., Poulton, P. R., Macdonald, A. J. and Bardgett, R. D. 2011. Increases in soil organic carbon sequestration can reduce the global warming potential of long-term liming to permanent grassland. Global Change Biology. 17 (5), pp. 1925-1934.

AuthorsFornara, D. A., Steinbeiss, S., Mcnamara, N. P., Gleixner, G., Oakley, S., Poulton, P. R., Macdonald, A. J. and Bardgett, R. D.
Abstract

The application of calcium- and magnesium-rich materials to soil, known as liming, has long been a foundation of many agro-ecosystems worldwide because of its role in counteracting soil acidity. Although liming contributes to increased rates of respiration from soil thereby potentially reducing soils ability to act as a CO(2) sink, the long-term effects of liming on soil organic carbon (C(org)) sequestration are largely unknown. Here, using data spanning 129 years of the Park Grass Experiment at Rothamsted (UK), we show net C(org) sequestration measured in the 0-23 cm layer at different time intervals since 1876 was 2-20 times greater in limed than in unlimed soils. The main cause of this large C(org) accrual was greater biological activity in limed soils, which despite increasing soil respiration rates, led to plant C inputs being processed and incorporated into resistant soil organo-mineral pools. Limed organo-mineral soils showed: (1) greater C(org) content for similar plant productivity levels (i.e. hay yields); (2) higher 14C incorporation after 1950s atomic bomb testing and (3) lower C : N ratios than unlimed organo-mineral soils, which also indicate higher microbial processing of plant C. Our results show that greater C(org) sequestration in limed soils strongly reduced the global warming potential of long-term liming to permanent grassland suggesting the net contribution of agricultural liming to global warming could be lower than previously estimated. Our study demonstrates that liming might prove to be an effective mitigation strategy, especially because liming applications can be associated with a reduced use of nitrogen fertilizer which is a key cause for increased greenhouse gas emissions from agro-ecosystems.

Keywordsbiodiversity conservation; Ecology; Environmental Sciences
Year of Publication2011
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Journal citation17 (5), pp. 1925-1934
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02328.x
Open accessPublished as non-open access
FunderMarie Curie Outgoing Fellowship
NERC - Natural Environment Research Council
Funder project or codeSEF
Centre for Biofuels and Climate Change (BCC)
PublisherWiley
ISSN1354-1013

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