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Title: Species and media effects on soil carbon dynamics in the landscape

item MARBLE, S - Auburn University
item Prior, Stephen - Steve
item Runion, George
item Torbert, Henry - Allen
item GILLIAM, CHARLES - Auburn University
item FAIN, GLENN - Auburn University
item SIBLEY, JEFF - Auburn University
item KNIGHT, PATRICIA - Mississippi State Extension Service

Submitted to: Scientific Reports
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/12/2016
Publication Date: 5/3/2016
Publication URL:
Citation: Marble, S.C., Prior, S.A., Runion, G.B., Torbert III, H.A., Gilliam, C.H., Fain, G.B., Sibley, J.L., Knight, P.R. 2016. Species and media effects on soil carbon dynamics in the landscape. Scientific Reports. 6:25210. doi:10.1038/srep25210.

Interpretive Summary: Increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration may change the global climate. Most work evaluating greenhouse gas emissions and soil carbon storage has been done in crop and forest systems with little emphasis on horticulture plants. We investigated standard (pine bark) and new alternative potting mixtures to measure CO2 release to the atmosphere and the soil carbon footprint of these potting mixtures after out planting into the landscape. We found that all species and substrate combinations had a net carbon gain, but plants grown in pinebark had greater carbon sequestration potential due to the longevity of pinebark following transplanting into the landscape.

Technical Abstract: The objective of this study was to determine the carbon sequestration potential from woody ornamental plants. Three species [cleyera (Ternstroemia gymnanthera Thunb. ‘Conthery’), Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica L.), and loropetalum (Loropetalum chinensis Oliv.‘Ruby’) were container-grown for one growing season in 2008 using either pinebark (as an industry standard), clean chip residual or WholeTree (derived as by-products from the forestry industry) as potting substrate and then transplanted into the landscape in Auburn, AL in December 2008. An Automated Carbon Efflux System was used to continually monitor soil CO2 efflux from November 2010 through November 2011 in each species and substrate combination. Changes in soil carbon levels as a result of potting substrate were assessed through soil sampling in 2009 and 2011, and plant biomass was determined at study conclusion. Results showed that soil CO2 carbon efflux was generally similar among all species and substrates, with few simple or main effects observed throughout the study. Soil analysis showed most plots with pinebark contained higher levels of soil carbon in both 2009 and 2011, suggesting pinebark is slower to decompose than clean chip residual or WholeTree, and consequently has greater carbon storage potential than the other two alternative substrates. Plant biomass data show plants grew similar regardless of original potting substrate. Results showed that all species and substrate combinations resulted in a net carbon gain; however plants grown in pinebark substrate had greater carbon sequestration potential due to the longevity of PB following transplanting.