Impacts of management practices on soil organic carbon in degraded alpine meadows on the Tibetan Plateau
Grassland soil organic carbon (SOC) is sensitive to anthropogenic activities. Increased anthropogenic disturbance related to overgrazing has led to widespread alpine grassland degradation on the Tibetan Plateau. The degraded grasslands are considered to have great potential for carbon sequestration after adoption of improved management practices. Here, we calibrated and employed the Century model to investigate the effects of overgrazing and improved managements on the SOC dynamics in alpine meadows. We calibrated the Century model against plant productivity at the Haibei Research Station. SOC stocks for validation were obtained in 2009–2010 from degraded alpine meadows in two communes. We found that Century model can successfully capture grassland SOC changes. Overall, our simulation suggests that degraded alpine meadow SOC significantly increased with the advent of restoration management from 2011 to 2030. Carbon sequestration rates ranged between 0.04 Mg C ha −1 yr −1 in lightly degraded winter grazing grasslands and 2.0 Mg C ha −1 yr −1 in moderately degraded summer grazing grasslands. Our modelling work also predicts that improve management in degraded Tibetan grasslands will contribute to an annual carbon sink of 0.022–0.059 Pg C yr −1. These results imply that restoration of degraded grasslands in the Tibetan Plateau has great potential for soil carbon sequestration to mitigate greenhouse gases.