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Science of The Total Environment
Vol. 599-600, 20
17, Pages: 1646–1657

Simulating soil organic carbon stock as affected by land cover change and climate change, Hyrcanian forests (northern Iran)

Azam Soleimani, Seyed Mohsen Hosseini, Ali Reza Massah Bavani, Mostafa Jafari, Rosa Francaviglia

Department of Geography, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Road East, Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1, Canada.


Soil organic carbon (SOC) contains a considerable portion of the world's terrestrial carbon stock, and is affected by changes in land cover and climate. SOC modeling is a useful approach to assess the impact of land use, land use change and climate change on carbon (C) sequestration. This study aimed to: (i) test the performance of RothC model using data measured from different land covers in Hyrcanian forests (northern Iran); and (ii) predict changes in SOC under different climate change scenarios that may occur in the future. The following land covers were considered: Quercus castaneifolia (QC), Acer velutinum (AV), Alnus subcordata (AS), Cupressus sempervirens (CS) plantations and a natural forest (NF). For assessment of future climate change projections the Fifth Assessment IPCC report was used. These projections were generated with nine Global Climate Models (GCMs), for two Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) leading to very low and high greenhouse gases concentration levels (RCP 2.6 and RCP 8.5 respectively), and for four 20 year-periods up to 2099 (2030s, 2050s, 2070s and 2090s). Simulated values of SOC correlated well with measured data (R2 = 0.64 to 0.91) indicating a good efficiency of the RothC model. Our results showed an overall decrease in SOC stocks by 2099 under all land covers and climate change scenarios, but the extent of the decrease varied with the climate models, the emissions scenarios, time periods and land covers. Acer velutinum plantation was the most sensitive land cover to future climate change (range of decrease 8.34–21.83 t C ha-1). Results suggest that modeling techniques can be effectively applied for evaluating SOC stocks, allowing the identification of current patterns in the soil and the prediction of future conditions.

Graphical abstract

Keywords: Carbon sequestration; Climate change; Land cover change; RothC model; RCP scenarios.

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