Journal of Arid Land


Horqin Sandy Land is a fragile, seriously desertified region located in Inner Mongolia of China. Overgrazing is one of the primary drivers of desertification in this region. We investigated whether the establishment of grazing exclosures in areas with active sand dunes enhances soil carbon (C) sequestration and benefits soil recovery. The results showed that soil organic C storage was 1.4, 1.9, and 3.5 times, and light fraction C storage was 2.3, 3.2, and 4.4 times in the 100-cm topsoil after 7, 12, and 25 years of grazing exclusion, respectively, compared to the case in active sand dunes. The light fraction of soil played an important role in soil C sequestration, although it might not change rapidly to provide an early indication of how soil C is increasing in response to grazing exclusion. The results indicated that soils could potentially sequester up to 13.8 Mt C in 25 years if active sand dunes in the study area were to be protected by exclosures. This corresponds to 12.8% of the estimated carbon loss (107.53 Mt) that has been associated with desertification over the past century in the Horqin Sandy Land. Our results suggested that exclosures have the capacity to increase soil C sequestration; however, decades will be required for soil C to recover to historical grassland levels observed prior to desertification.


carbon storage; overgrazing; exclosures; desertification; Horqin Sandy Land

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