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Geophysical Monograph Series



  • Carbon sequestration
  • Carbon cycle (Biogeochemistry)

Index Terms

  • 1615 Global Change: Biogeochemical cycles, processes, and modeling
  • 1625 Global Change: Geomorphology and weathering



Erosion of soil organic carbon: Implications for carbon sequestration

Kristof Van Oost

Département de Géographie, Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

Hendrik Van Hemelryck

Physical and Regional Geography Research Group, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Heverlee, Belgium

Jennifer W. Harden

U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California, USA

Agricultural activities have substantially increased rates of soil erosion and deposition, and these processes have a significant impact on carbon (C) mineralization and burial. Here, we present a synthesis of erosion effects on carbon dynamics and discuss the implications of soil erosion for carbon sequestration strategies. We demonstrate that for a range of data-based parameters from the literature, soil erosion results in increased C storage onto land, an effect that is heterogeneous on the landscape and is variable on various timescales. We argue that the magnitude of the erosion term and soil carbon residence time, both strongly influenced by soil management, largely control the strength of the erosion-induced sink. In order to evaluate fully the effects of soil management strategies that promote carbon sequestration, a full carbon account must be made that considers the impact of erosion-enhanced disequilibrium between carbon inputs and decomposition, including effects on net primary productivity and decomposition rates.

Citation: Van Oost, K., H. Van Hemelryck, and J. W. Harden (2009), Erosion of soil organic carbon: Implications for carbon sequestration, in Carbon Sequestration and Its Role in the Global Carbon Cycle, Geophys. Monogr. Ser., vol. 183, edited by B. J. McPherson and E. T. Sundquist, pp. 189–202, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/2005GM000326.


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