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Declining trend of carbon in Finnish cropland soils in 1974–2009


Correspondence: Jaakko Heikkinen, tel. +358 29 5317194, fax +358 020772040, e-mail:


Soil organic matter not only affects soil properties and productivity but also has an essential role in global carbon (C) cycle. We studied changes in the topsoil C content of Finnish croplands using a dataset produced in nationwide soil monitoring. The monitoring network consisting of fields on both mineral and organic soils was established in 1974 and resampled in 1987, 1998, and 2009. Over the monitoring period from 1974 to 2009, cultivated soils showed a continuous decline in C concentration (g kg−1). In organic soils, C concentration decreased at a mean rate of 0.2–0.3% yr−1 relative to the existing C concentration. In mineral soils, the relative decrease was 0.4% yr−1 corresponding to a C stock (kg m−2) loss of 220 kg ha−1 yr−1. The change in management practices in last decades toward increasing cultivation of annual crops has contributed to soil C losses noted in this study. The results, however, suggest that the C losses result partly from other processes affecting cultivated soils such as climatic change or the continuing long-term effect of forest clearance. We estimated that Finnish cropland soils store 161 Tg carbon nationwide in the topmost 15 cm of which 117 Tg is in mineral soils. C losses from mineral soils can therefore total up to 0.5 Tg yearly.