Spatial heterogeneity of aggregate stability and soil carbon in semi-arid rangeland

S. B. Bird, J. E. Herrick, M. M. Wander, S. F. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To measure and manage for C sequestration in heterogeneous rangeland systems, we need to more fully understand spatial patterns of soil resources. Spatial distributions of aggregate stability and soil carbon were investigated in a semiarid rangeland in New Mexico, USA. Soil was analyzed from plant interspaces, black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda (Torr.) Torr.), and mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa Torr.) in a landscape-replicated study. Aggregate stability at the 250 μm scale, carbonate C, organic C and N, C:N ratio, and glomalin, were all highest under mesquite. Soil C:N ratio was the best predictor of aggregate stability. Estimates of metric tons of C per hectare in the top 10 cm were highly variable at patch and landscape scales, varying from 4.2 to 10.5 under mesquite and from 3.0 to 7.0 in interspaces. High variability of aggregate stability and soil C has important implications for C sequestration. We argue that this multi-scale soil heterogeneity must be considered when measuring and managing for C sequestration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-455
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002


  • Carbon sequestration
  • Chihuahuan desert
  • Soil organic matter
  • Soil structure
  • Spatial heterogeneity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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