- Woody encroachment and soil carbon stocks in subalpine areas in the Cental Spanish Pyrenees
- Science of the Total Environment
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Woody encroachment has been an ongoing process in the subalpine belt of Mediterranean mountains, after land abandonment, the disappearance of the transhumant system and the decrease of the livestock number. The main objectives of this study were: (i) to identify land use/land cover (LULC) changes from 1956 to 2015, and (ii) to investigate the effects of LULC changes in physical and chemical soil properties and soil organic carbon (SOC) and nitrogen (N) stocks. It is hypothesized that woody encroachment in the subalpine belt may lead to significant changes in soil properties, and will generate an increase in the SOC stocks. A land use gradient was identified in the subalpine belt of the Central Spanish Pyrenees: (i) subalpine grasslands, (ii) shrublands, (iii) young forests, and (iv) old forests. Mineral soil samples were collected every 10 cm, down to 40 cm, at three points per each LULC and a total of 48 samples were analyzed. The results showed that (i) woody encroachment has occurred from 1956 to 2015 due to the expansion of coniferous forests and shrublands (at the expense of grasslands), (ii) land cover and soil depth had significant effects on soil properties (except for pH), being larger in the uppermost 0–10 cm depth, (iii) SOC and N contents and stocks were higher in the grassland sites, and (iv) the woody encroachment process initially produced a decrease in the SOC stocks (shrublands), but no differences were observed considering the complete soil profile between grasslands and young and old forests. Further studies, describing SOC stabilization and quantifying above-ground carbon (shrub and tree biomass) are required.
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