Change happens from the ground up: long-term prospects for soil carbon storage using targeted tallgrass prairie restorations in agroecosystems




Mazzorato, Annalisa

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University of Guelph


Soil carbon (C) is approximately twice the amount of atmospheric C and plays a key role in nutrient cycling and provides critical ecosystem services. The intensification of agriculture, now covering 40% of the earth’s terrestrial surface, is one of the biggest problems facing soil carbon loss contributing to a loss of 26% of soil C to the atmosphere via factors such as cultivation. An observational study on 11 farms with conventional cropping systems and restored tallgrass prairie on marginal land was conducted. The effect of cover, restoration age, sampling depth down to 60 cm and aboveground tissue quality and quantity on soil C accumulation in the form of soil organic carbon (SOC) was examined. My work revealed two findings: (1) that cover type had minimal influences on several key soil properties, specifically with SOC, respiration and ammonia and (2) although SOC showed no differences with cover type, several other key factors associated with SOC accumulation diverged substantially with restored prairies having higher root biomass, pH, litter biomass and lower nitrate, phosphorus, bulk density and tissue quality. Overall, the lack of response for SOC or respiration between cover types and within the prairie chronosequence demonstrate that these systems require larger timescales for these differences to emerge.



soil organic carbon, carbon, biomass, cropping systems, respiration, nutrient, prairie, grassland, ALUS, soil, restoration, agriculture, marginal land, ecosystem service, chronosequence, diversity