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Land Use Effects on Sample Size Requirements for Soil Organic Carbon Stock Estimations

Chaudhuri, Sriroop1; Pena-Yewtukhiw, Eugenia M.1; McDonald, Louis M.1; Skousen, Jeffrey1; Sperow, Mark2

Soil Science:
doi: 10.1097/SS.0b013e31820a0fe2
Technical Article

Soil organic carbon (SOC) stock (in metric tons of carbon per hectare) is calculated from SOC concentration (in grams per kilogram) and soil bulk density (ρb; in grams per cubic centimeter). Temporal changes in SOC stock are used to calculate terrestrial carbon sequestration rates used in global climate change models. The inherent variability in soil properties like SOC and ρb means that larger sample sizes may be needed to accurately determine SOC stocks. Our objective was to calculate the minimum sample size required to detect changes in ρb, SOC, and SOC stock for two land uses. Surface soils (0-5 cm) from two reclaimed mine soils and two managed hay fields in northern West Virginia were intensively sampled (60-74 samples each). Mean SOC and SOC stock values were larger in the hay fields (40 g/kg, 29 Mg ha−1) than in the mine soils (20 g/kg, 20 Mg ha−1), but ρb was larger in reclaimed mine soils (1.4 g cm−3) than in hay field soils (1.2 g cm−3). The ρb variance was larger in mine soils than that in hay field soils, but field variances for a given land use were similar (0.09 and 0.11 [g cm−3]2 in mine soils; 0.02 and 0.03 [g cm−3]2 in hay field soils). The variances in SOC concentration and SOC stock were not related to land use and were not similar within a land use. As a result, the minimum number of samples required to detect a change in ρb, SOC, and SOC stock was a site-specific property and cannot be assumed a priori.

Author Information

1Division of Plant and Soil Sciences, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506. Dr. Eugenia M. Pena-Yewtukhiw is corresponding author. E-mail:

2Division of Resource Management, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV.

Received June 28, 2010.

Accepted for publication December 1, 2010.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.