Input-driven versus turnover-driven controls of simulated changes in soil carbon due to land-use change

Historical changes in soil carbon associated with land-use change (LUC) result mainly from the changes in the quantity of litter inputs to the soil and the turnover of carbon in soils. We use a factor separation technique to assess how the input-driven and turnover-driven controls, as well as their synergies, have contributed to historical changes in soil carbon associated with LUC. We apply this approach to equilibrium simulations of present-day and pre-industrial land use performed using the dynamic global vegetation model JSBACH. Our results show that both the input-driven and turnover-driven changes generally contribute to a gain in soil carbon in afforested regions and a loss in deforested regions. However, in regions where grasslands have been converted to croplands, we find an input-driven loss that is partly offset by a turnover-driven gain, which stems from a decrease in the fire-related carbon losses. Omitting land management through crop and wood harvest substantially reduces the global losses through the input-driven changes. Our study thus suggests that the dominating control of soil carbon losses is via the input-driven changes, which are more directly accessible to human management than the turnover-driven ones.

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