Projected loss of soil organic carbon in temperate agricultural soils in the 21st century: effects of climate change and carbon input trends
Climate change and stagnating crop yields may cause a decline of SOC stocks in agricultural soils leading to considerable CO2 emissions and reduced agricultural productivity. Regional model-based SOC projections are needed to evaluate these potential risks. In this study, we simulated the future SOC development in cropland and grassland soils of Bavaria in the 21st century. Soils from 51 study sites representing the most important soil classes of Central Europe were fractionated and derived SOC pools were used to initialize the RothC soil carbon model. For each site, long-term C inputs were determined using the C allocation method. Model runs were performed for three different C input scenarios as a realistic range of projected yield development. Our modelling approach revealed substantial SOC decreases of 11–16% under an expected mean temperature increase of 3.3 °C assuming unchanged C inputs. For the scenario of 20% reduced C inputs, agricultural SOC stocks are projected to decline by 19–24%. Remarkably, even the optimistic scenario of 20% increased C inputs led to SOC decreases of 3–8%. Projected SOC changes largely differed among investigated soil classes. Our results indicated that C inputs have to increase by 29% to maintain present SOC stocks in agricultural soils.