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Keywords:

  • carbon dynamics;
  • model simulations;
  • EDCM model;
  • erosion;
  • deposition

[1] Soil erosion and deposition may play important roles in balancing the global atmospheric carbon budget through their impacts on the net exchange of carbon between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere. Few models and studies have been designed to assess these impacts. In this study, we developed a general ecosystem model, Erosion-Deposition-Carbon-Model (EDCM), to dynamically simulate the influences of rainfall-induced soil erosion and deposition on soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics in soil profiles. EDCM was applied to several landscape positions in the Nelson Farm watershed in Mississippi, including ridge top (without erosion or deposition), eroding hillslopes, and depositional sites that had been converted from native forests to croplands in 1870. Erosion reduced the SOC storage at the eroding sites and deposition increased the SOC storage at the depositional areas compared with the site without erosion or deposition. Results indicated that soils were consistently carbon sources to the atmosphere at all landscape positions from 1870 to 1950, with lowest source strength at the eroding sites (13 to 24 gC m−2 yr−1), intermediate at the ridge top (34 gC m−2 yr−1), and highest at the depositional sites (42 to 49 gC m−2 yr−1). During this period, erosion reduced carbon emissions via dynamically replacing surface soil with subsurface soil that had lower SOC contents (quantity change) and higher passive SOC fractions (quality change). Soils at all landscape positions became carbon sinks from 1950 to 1997 due to changes in management practices (e.g., intensification of fertilization and crop genetic improvement). The sink strengths were highest at the eroding sites (42 to 44 gC m−2 yr−1), intermediate at the ridge top (35 gC m−2 yr−1), and lowest at the depositional sites (26 to 29 gC m−2 yr−1). During this period, erosion enhanced carbon uptake at the eroding sites by continuously taking away a fraction of SOC that can be replenished with enhanced plant residue input. Overall, soil erosion and deposition reduced CO2 emissions from the soil into the atmosphere by exposing low carbon-bearing soil at eroding sites and by burying SOC at depositional sites. The results suggest that failing to account for the impact of soil erosion and deposition may potentially contribute to an overestimation of both the total historical carbon released from soils owing to land use change and the contemporary carbon sequestration rates at the eroding sites.