Soil organic carbon in northern Spain (Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and País Vasco)

Rosa Calvo de Anta, Elías Luis Calvo, Francisco Casás Sabarís, Juan Manuel Galiñanes Costa, Natividad Matilla Mosquera, Felipe Macías Vázquez, Marta Camps Arbestain, Noemí Vázquez García


The soil organic carbon content was analyzed in more than 7 000 soil samples under different land uses, climates and lithologies from northern Spain (Galicia, Asturias, Cantábria y País Vasco). GIS maps (1:50 000) were made of the % SOC and SOC stocks. The % SOC varies according to land use (higher in forest and scrub soils and lower in agricultural soils) and climate, and there is a highly significant correlation between SOC content and mean annual precipitation. There are significant differences between the soils of Galicia/Western Asturias (GAw) and those of the rest of the study area (Central and Eastern Asturias, Cantabria and País Vasco) (AceCV), although these are neighbouring regions. In forest and/or scrub soils with a udic soil moisture regime, in GAw, the SOC is usually > 7% and the average stocks 260 t ha -1 (0-30 cm), and >340 t ha-1 (0-50 cm) in soils with thick organic matter rich horizons (> 40 cm); these values greatly exceed the average contents observed in forest soils from temperate zones. Under similar conditions of vegetation and climate in soils of AceCV the SOC average is 3% and the mean stocks 90-100 t ha-1 (0-30 cm). The andic character of acid forest soils in GAw and the formation of C-Al,Fe complexes are pointed out as the SOC stabilization mechanism, in contrast to the neutral and calcareous soils that predominate in AceCV, where the main species of OC are easily biodegradable.

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