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Impacts Of Land-use Intensity On Soil Organic Carbon Content, Soil Structure And Water-holding Capacity

M. Acín-Carrera, M. Marques, M. Marques, Pilar Carral, Ana M. Álvarez, C. López, B. Martín-López, José Gonzalez
Published 2013 · Environmental Science

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The impact of land-use intensity is evaluated through changes in the soil properties in different areas of the traditional central Spanish landscape. Soil organic carbon (SOC) content, bulk density, aggregate stability and water-holding capacity (WHC) in the topsoil of active and abandoned vineyards, livestock routes (LR) and young Quercus afforested areas were analysed. These different types of land use can be interpreted as having a gradient of progressively less impact on soil functions or conservation. As soil use intensity declines, there is an increase in SOC content (from 0.2 to 0.6%), WHC (from 0.2 to 0.3 g H2O per g soil) and aggregate stability (from 4 to 33 drop impacts). Soils beneath vines have lost their upper horizon (15 cm depth) because of centuries-old tillage management of vineyards. Except for an increase in bulk density (from 1.2 to 1.4 g/cm 3 ), there were no differences in soil characteristics 4 yr after the abandonment of vine management. LR can be considered sustainable uses of land, which preserve or improve soil characteristics, as there were no significant differences between topsoil from LR and that from a 40-yr-old Quercus afforested area. SOC content, one of the main indicators for soil conservation, is considered very low in every case analysed, even in the more conservative uses of land. These data can be useful in understanding the slow rate of recovery of soils, even after long-term cessation of agricultural land use.
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