• carbon sequestration;
  • carbon stock;
  • China;
  • cropland soils;
  • geological survey;
  • global change;
  • mitigation potential;
  • paddy soil;
  • soil database;
  • soil organic carbon;
  • topsoil;
  • variability


Estimates of regional and national topsoil soil organic carbon (SOC) stock change may help evaluating the soil role in mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through carbon (C) sequestration in soils. However, understanding of the exact mitigation role is often constrained by the uncertainty of the stock estimation associated with different methodologies. In this paper, a soil database of topsoil (0–20 cm) SOC measurements of Jiangsu Province, China, obtained from a soil survey in 1982, and from a geological survey in 2004, was used to analyze the variability of topsoil SOC among soil groups and among soil regions, and to estimate the change in SOC stocks that have occurred in the province over the last two decades. The soil survey data was obtained from measurements of 662 690 randomly collected samples, while the geological survey data was from 24 167 samples taken using a 2 km × 2 km grid. Statistical analysis was conducted on SOC values for 1982 and 2004 for different categories of soil groups, soil regions, and administrative municipalities, respectively. Topsoil SOC storage was then calculated and the provincial topsoil SOC stock was estimated for each sampling time. There were remarkable differences in SOC levels between soil groups and soil regions and different municipalities. The grid sampling with the geological survey in 2004 yielded smaller variability of topsoil SOC averages, both with soil groups and with soil spatial distribution than the random sampling method used in 1982. Variation of SOC was greater with soil groups than with soil regions in both sampling times, although it was less variable across soil taxonomic categories than within a spatial category. Little variance of the SOC level with soil groups could be explained by clay content. However, the prevalence of paddy fields in the total cropland area governed the regional and municipal average SOC levels. The average provincial topsoil SOC content increased from 9.45 g kg−1 in 1982 to 10.9 g kg−1 in 2004, and the total provincial topsoil SOC stock was enhanced from 149.0±58.1 Tg C in 1982 to 173.2±51.4 Tg C in 2004, corresponding to a provincial average SOC sequestration rate of 0.16±0.09 t C ha−1 yr−1. The SOC sequestration trend for the last two decades could be, in part, attributed to the enhanced agricultural production, symbolized by the grain yield per hectare. The results of SOC stock changes suggest a significant C sequestration in soils of Jiangsu, China, during 1980–2000, with paddy management playing an important role in regional SOC storage and sequestration capacity.