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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 6, issue 2
Earth Syst. Dynam., 6, 745-768, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-6-745-2015
© Author(s) 2015. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Earth Syst. Dynam., 6, 745-768, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-6-745-2015
© Author(s) 2015. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 30 Nov 2015

Research article | 30 Nov 2015

Soil carbon management in large-scale Earth system modelling: implications for crop yields and nitrogen leaching

S. Olin1, M. Lindeskog1, T. A. M. Pugh2, G. Schurgers3, D. Wårlind4, M. Mishurov1, S. Zaehle5, B. D. Stocker6, B. Smith1, and A. Arneth2 S. Olin et al.
  • 1Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, Lund University, 223 62 Lund, Sweden
  • 2Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research/Atmospheric Environmental Research, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  • 3Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, Øster Voldgade 10, 1350 Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 4CSIRO Sustainable Agricultural Flagship, CSIRO Agriculture, GPO Box 1666, Black Mountain, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia
  • 5Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry – Biogeochemical Integration Department, P.O. Box 60 01 64, 07701 Jena, Germany
  • 6Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, Silwood Park, Ascot, SL5 7PY, UK

Abstract. Croplands are vital ecosystems for human well-being and provide important ecosystem services such as crop yields, retention of nitrogen and carbon storage. On large (regional to global)-scale levels, assessment of how these different services will vary in space and time, especially in response to cropland management, are scarce. We explore cropland management alternatives and the effect these can have on future C and N pools and fluxes using the land-use-enabled dynamic vegetation model LPJ-GUESS (Lund–Potsdam–Jena General Ecosystem Simulator). Simulated crop production, cropland carbon storage, carbon sequestration and nitrogen leaching from croplands are evaluated and discussed. Compared to the version of LPJ-GUESS that does not include land-use dynamics, estimates of soil carbon stocks and nitrogen leaching from terrestrial to aquatic ecosystems were improved.

Our model experiments allow us to investigate trade-offs between these ecosystem services that can be provided from agricultural fields. These trade-offs are evaluated for current land use and climate and further explored for future conditions within the two future climate change scenarios, RCP (Representative Concentration Pathway) 2.6 and 8.5. Our results show that the potential for carbon sequestration due to typical cropland management practices such as no-till management and cover crops proposed in previous studies is not realised, globally or over larger climatic regions. Our results highlight important considerations to be made when modelling C–N interactions in agricultural ecosystems under future environmental change and the effects these have on terrestrial biogeochemical cycles.

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Croplands are vital ecosystems for human well-being. Properly managed they can supply food, store carbon and even sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Conversely, if poorly managed, croplands can be a source of nitrogen to inland and coastal waters, causing algal blooms, and a source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, accentuating climate change. Here we studied cropland management types for their potential to store carbon and minimize nitrogen losses while maintaining crop yields.
Croplands are vital ecosystems for human well-being. Properly managed they can supply food,...
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