Although many studies have been done on the effects of agricultural land abandonment, there is very little information about the impact of climate conditions on the restoration of abandoned agricultural lands. Human has changed most of rangelands to agricultural lands causing a decrease in carbon sequestration, depending on land management and tillage operations. One of the methods for rebuilding the land cover is the land abandonment, which results in enhanced organic carbon and decreased CO2 emission. Understanding the storage and dynamics of soil organic matter, especially in relation to changing land use, is fundamental to evaluate the role of soil as a carbon source or sink. After land use change from rangeland to cropland, agricultural practices decrease the C stored in soils and cause a net release of C into the atmosphere, which has strongly influenced the atmospheric CO2 levels and global C balance over the last centuries. For this purpose, this study aimed to assess the effect of interaction between agricultural land abandonment and climatic conditions on organic material reserves of primary soil particles.
The study area was located in semi-steppe rangelands of Sheida and Khargosh in about 60 km northwest of Shahrekord city, Chaharmahal-va-Bakhtiari province, central Iran. In this study, four treatments including rangeland, agricultural and cultivated land abandoned in the time series of 10-15 and 15-40 Year were selected. The sample plots were placed in the distance of transects, and the soil samples were collected from 0-30 cm depths with different rainfall conditions from two above-mentioned regions in three replications. For each region, the soil samples were transferred to the laboratory and then analyzed. The selected locations had same soil shape, topography, parent material, and slope. The soil samples of three plots were then combined and 24 samples were prepared. The distribution of carbon and nitrogen concentrations was determined at different soil particle components.
The results showed that the rangeland change to cultivated land did not have a significant effect on the amount of organic carbon, total nitrogen, and total carbon to total nitrogen ratio. However, the values of these indicators decreased significantly in the Sheida region. Under all land management, the amount of carbon and nitrogen of soil particles increased with decreasing the particle size from sand to clay. Hence, the abandoned agricultural land and rangelands did not significantly affect the amount of carbon and nitrogen concentration in sand, silt and clay particles. The amount of carbon, however, increased with the abandonment time and non-agronomic activity of carbon in sand and silt particles, although the carbon content of clay particle was not influenced. Agricultural practices may negatively or positively impact natural ecosystem depending on climatic condition and soil quality in unchanged lands. However, despite suitable climatic conditions (in terms of precipitation) and land cover in the rangelands over Sheida, the cultivation adversely influenced the soil quality and organic matter of the unchanged land. Although, the precipitation and soil quality were relatively lower in Khargosh region, the agricultural activities seem not to negatively affect the land quality. Moreover, rangelands change to cultivated lands did not have a significant effect on the amount of soil nitrogen in this region. The greatest nitrogen amount was measured in clay fractions of cultivated and abandoned lands for 40 years, and the minimum nitrogen content was detected in sand particles of lands abandoned for 15 years. The highest and lowest amount of nitrogen over all three fractions was, respectively, found for unchanged and abandoned lands in Sheida region. Therefore, the cultivated land depending on climate condition and management may considerably increase or decrease the organic carbon content in sand, silt and clay particles.
The results indicated that the agricultural land abandonment may differently affect the rangelands restoration measures such as the vegetation reclamation and soil carbon sequestration depending on climatic condition
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