Climate and land use controls on soil organic carbon in the Loess Plateau region of China

Yaai Dang, Wei Ren, Bo Tao, Guangsheng Chen, Chaoqun Lu, Jia Yang, Shufen Pan, Guodong Wang, Shiqing Li, Hanqin Tian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The Loess Plateau of China has the highest soil erosion rate in the world where billion tons of soil is annually washed into Yellow River. In recent decades this region has experienced significant climate change and policy-driven land conversion. However, it has not yet been well investigated how these changes in climate and land use have affected soil organic carbon (SOC) storage on the Loess Plateau. By using the Dynamic Land Ecosystem Model (DLEM), we quantified the effects of climate and land use on SOC storage on the Loess Plateau in the context of multiple environmental factors during the period of 1961-2005. Our results show that SOC storage increased by 0.27 Pg C on the Loess Plateau as a result of multiple environmental factors during the study period. About 55% (0.14 Pg C) of the SOC increase was caused by land conversion from cropland to grassland/forest owing to the government efforts to reduce soil erosion and improve the ecological conditions in the region. Historical climate change reduced SOC by 0.05 Pg C (approximately 19% of the total change) primarily due to a significant climate warming and a slight reduction in precipitation. Our results imply that the implementation of "Grain for Green" policy may effectively enhance regional soil carbon storage and hence starve off further soil erosion on the Loess Plateau.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere95548
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by NASA Land Cover and Land Use Change Program (NNX08AL73G), NASA Interdisciplinary Science Program (NNG04GM39C), Chinese Universities Scientific Fund (z10921007), US National Science Foundation Grants (AGS-1243220, CNS-1059376), State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess Plateau Foundation (K318009902-1410), and Shaanxi Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs Science and Technology Activities Fundation (201327). Thank Mingliang Liu, Xiaofeng Xu, and Jiyuan Liu for their contributions in the development of spatial data and the DLEM model.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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