Soils contain much of Earth's terrestrial organic carbon but are sensitive to land-use. Rangelands are important to carbon dynamics and are among ecosystems most widely impacted by land-use. While common practices like grazing, fire, and tillage affect soil properties directly related to soil carbon dynamics, their magnitude and direction of change vary among ecosystems and with intensity of disturbance. We describe variability in soil organic carbon (SOC) and root biomass - sampled from 0-170 cm and 0-100 cm, respectively - in terms of soil properties, land-use history, current management, and plant community composition using linear regression and multivariate ordination. Despite consistency in average values of SOC and root biomass between our data and data from rangelands worldwide, broad ranges in root biomass and SOC in our data suggest these variables are affected by other site-specific factors. Pastures with a recent history of severe grazing had reduced root biomass and greater bulk density. Ordination suggests greater exotic species richness is associated with lower root biomass but the relationship was not apparent when an invasive species of management concern was specifically tested. We discuss how unexplained variability in belowground properties can complicate measurement and prediction of ecosystem processes such as carbon sequestration.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Environmental Science(all)