Alpine grassland of the Tibetan Plateau is an important component of global soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks, but insufficient field observations and large spatial heterogeneity leads to great uncertainty in their estimation. In the Three Rivers Source Region (TRSR), alpine grasslands account for more than 75% of the total area. However, the regional carbon (C) stock estimate and their uncertainty have seldom been tested.
WANG Shiping and his team quantified the regional SOC stock and its uncertainty using 298 soil profiles surveyed from 35 sites across the TRSR during 2006–2008.
The upper soil (0–30 cm depth) in alpine grasslands of the TRSR stores 2.03 Pg C, with a 95% confidence interval ranging from 1.25 to 2.81 Pg C. Alpine meadow soils comprised 73% (i.e. 1.48 Pg C) of the regional SOC estimate, but had the greatest uncertainty at 51%. The statistical power to detect a deviation of 10% uncertainty in grassland C stock was less than 0.50. The required sample size to detect this deviation at a power of 90% was about 6–7 times more than the number of sample sites surveyed.
Comparison of the observed SOC density with the corresponding values from the dataset of Yang et al. indicates that these two datasets are comparable. The combined dataset did not reduce the uncertainty in the estimate of the regional grassland soil C stock.
This result could be mainly explained by the underrepresentation of sampling sites in large areas with poor accessibility. Further research to improve the regional SOC stock estimate should optimize sampling strategy by considering the number of samples and their spatial distribution.
Figure. Soil sampling locations from our survey and the extracted dataset of Yang et al.
1 Author Information: Xiaofeng Chang, Shiping Wang, Shujuan Cui, Xiaoxue Zhu, Caiyun Luo, Zhenhua Zhang, Andreas Wilkes.
2 Published: PLoS ONE 9(5): e97140. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0097140