22 Aug 2023
 | 22 Aug 2023

A millennium of arable land use – the long-term impact of water and tillage erosion on landscape-scale carbon dynamics

Lena Katharina Öttl, Florian Wilken, Anna Juřicová, Pedro V. G. Batista, and Peter Fiener

Abstract. In the last decades, soils and their agricultural management have received great scientific and political attention due to their associated potential to act as sink of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). It is questioned if soil redistribution processes affect this potential CO2 sink function, as agricultural management has a strong potential to accelerate soil redistribution. Most studies analysing the effect of soil redistribution upon soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics focus on water erosion, analyse only relatively small catchments and relatively short timespans of several years to decades. The aim of this study is to widen the perspective by including tillage erosion as another important driver of soil redistribution and performing a model-based analysis in a 200 km2-sized arable region of north-eastern Germany for the period since the conversion from forest to arable land (approx. 1000 years ago). Therefore, a modified version of the spatially explicit soil redistribution and carbon (C) turnover model SPEROS-C was applied to simulate lateral soil and SOC redistribution and SOC turnover (spatial resolution 5 m x 5 m). The model parameterisation uncertainty was estimated by simulating different realisations of the development of agricultural management over the past millennium. The results indicate that in young moraine areas, which are relatively dry but intensively used for agriculture for centuries, SOC patterns and SOC dynamics are substantially affected by tillage-induced soil redistribution processes. To understand the landscape scale effect of these redistribution processes on SOC dynamics it is essential to account for long-term changes following land conversion, as typical soil-erosion induced processes, e.g. dynamic replacement, only take place after former forest soils reach a new equilibrium following conversion. Overall, it was estimated that after 1000 years of arable land use SOC redistribution by tillage and water erosion results in a landscape scale C sink of up to 0.66 ‰ per year.

Lena Katharina Öttl, Florian Wilken, Anna Juřicová, Pedro V. G. Batista, and Peter Fiener

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1400', Marijn van der Meij, 18 Sep 2023
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC1', Lena Katharina Öttl, 13 Dec 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1400', Anonymous Referee #2, 07 Nov 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC2', Lena Katharina Öttl, 13 Dec 2023
Lena Katharina Öttl, Florian Wilken, Anna Juřicová, Pedro V. G. Batista, and Peter Fiener
Lena Katharina Öttl, Florian Wilken, Anna Juřicová, Pedro V. G. Batista, and Peter Fiener


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Short summary
This study assessed the long-term impact of water- and tillage-induced soil redistribution on SOC dynamics on a regional-scale catchment (ca. 200 km2). Large-scale and long-term soil redistribution modelling is necessary to explain today’s SOC pattern in young moraine landscapes. Tillage erosion was found to be an underestimated driver of SOC dynamics in areas with long (several centuries to millennia) agricultural history.