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Aboveground vs. belowground carbon stocks in African tropical lowland rainforest : drivers and implications

Sebastian Doetterl (UGent) , Elizabeth Kearsley (UGent) , Marijn Bauters (UGent) , Koen Hufkens (UGent) , Janvier Lisingo, Geert Baert (UGent) , Hans Verbeeck (UGent) and Pascal Boeckx (UGent)
(2015) PLOS ONE. 10(11).
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Abstract
Background : African tropical rainforests are one of the most important hotspots to look for changes in the upcoming decades when it comes to C storage and release. The focus of studying C dynamics in these systems lies traditionally on living aboveground biomass. Belowground soil organic carbon stocks have received little attention and estimates of the size, controls and distribution of soil organic carbon stocks are highly uncertain. In our study on lowland rainforest in the central Congo basin, we combine both an assessment of the aboveground C stock with an assessment of the belowground C stock and analyze the latter in terms of functional pools and controlling factors. Principal Findings : Our study shows that despite similar vegetation, soil and climatic conditions, soil organic carbon stocks in an area with greater tree height (=larger aboveground carbon stock) were only half compared to an area with lower tree height (=smaller aboveground carbon stock). This suggests that substantial variability in the aboveground vs. belowground C allocation strategy and/or C turnover in two similar tropical forest systems can lead to significant differences in total soil organic C content and C fractions with important consequences for the assessment of the total C stock of the system. Conclusions/Significance : We suggest nutrient limitation, especially potassium, as the driver for aboveground versus belowground C allocation. However, other drivers such as C turnover, tree functional traits or demographic considerations cannot be excluded. We argue that large and unaccounted variability in C stocks is to be expected in African tropical rain-forests. Currently, these differences in aboveground and belowground C stocks are not adequately verified and implemented mechanistically into Earth System Models. This will, hence, introduce additional uncertainty to models and predictions of the response of C storage of the Congo basin forest to climate change and its contribution to the terrestrial C budget.
Keywords
STABILIZATION MECHANISMS, SOIL ORGANIC-CARBON, NUTRIENT LIMITATION, AMAZONIAN FORESTS, LAND-USE, NITROGEN, MATTER, PHOSPHORUS, BIOMASS, GROWTH

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Citation

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Chicago
Doetterl, Sebastian, Elizabeth Kearsley, Marijn Bauters, Koen Hufkens, Janvier Lisingo, Geert Baert, Hans Verbeeck, and Pascal Boeckx. 2015. “Aboveground Vs. Belowground Carbon Stocks in African Tropical Lowland Rainforest : Drivers and Implications.” Plos One 10 (11).
APA
Doetterl, S., Kearsley, E., Bauters, M., Hufkens, K., Lisingo, J., Baert, G., Verbeeck, H., et al. (2015). Aboveground vs. belowground carbon stocks in African tropical lowland rainforest : drivers and implications. PLOS ONE, 10(11).
Vancouver
1.
Doetterl S, Kearsley E, Bauters M, Hufkens K, Lisingo J, Baert G, et al. Aboveground vs. belowground carbon stocks in African tropical lowland rainforest : drivers and implications. PLOS ONE. 2015;10(11).
MLA
Doetterl, Sebastian, Elizabeth Kearsley, Marijn Bauters, et al. “Aboveground Vs. Belowground Carbon Stocks in African Tropical Lowland Rainforest : Drivers and Implications.” PLOS ONE 10.11 (2015): n. pag. Print.
@article{6993073,
  abstract     = {Background : African tropical rainforests are one of the most important hotspots to look for changes in the upcoming decades when it comes to C storage and release. The focus of studying C dynamics in these systems lies traditionally on living aboveground biomass. Belowground soil organic carbon stocks have received little attention and estimates of the size, controls and distribution of soil organic carbon stocks are highly uncertain. In our study on lowland rainforest in the central Congo basin, we combine both an assessment of the aboveground C stock with an assessment of the belowground C stock and analyze the latter in terms of functional pools and controlling factors. 
Principal Findings : Our study shows that despite similar vegetation, soil and climatic conditions, soil organic carbon stocks in an area with greater tree height (=larger aboveground carbon stock) were only half compared to an area with lower tree height (=smaller aboveground carbon stock). This suggests that substantial variability in the aboveground vs. belowground C allocation strategy and/or C turnover in two similar tropical forest systems can lead to significant differences in total soil organic C content and C fractions with important consequences for the assessment of the total C stock of the system. 
Conclusions/Significance : We suggest nutrient limitation, especially potassium, as the driver for aboveground versus belowground C allocation. However, other drivers such as C turnover, tree functional traits or demographic considerations cannot be excluded. We argue that large and unaccounted variability in C stocks is to be expected in African tropical rain-forests. Currently, these differences in aboveground and belowground C stocks are not adequately verified and implemented mechanistically into Earth System Models. This will, hence, introduce additional uncertainty to models and predictions of the response of C storage of the Congo basin forest to climate change and its contribution to the terrestrial C budget.},
  articleno    = {e0143209},
  author       = {Doetterl, Sebastian and Kearsley, Elizabeth and Bauters, Marijn and Hufkens, Koen and Lisingo, Janvier and Baert, Geert and Verbeeck, Hans and Boeckx, Pascal},
  issn         = {1932-6203},
  journal      = {PLOS ONE},
  keyword      = {STABILIZATION MECHANISMS,SOIL ORGANIC-CARBON,NUTRIENT LIMITATION,AMAZONIAN FORESTS,LAND-USE,NITROGEN,MATTER,PHOSPHORUS,BIOMASS,GROWTH},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {11},
  pages        = {14},
  title        = {Aboveground vs. belowground carbon stocks in African tropical lowland rainforest : drivers and implications},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0143209},
  volume       = {10},
  year         = {2015},
}

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