SOIL Discuss., 2019; https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2019-59
Partner Publication (IAS – CSIC):
José A. Gómez1, Gema Guzmán2, Arsenio Toloza3, Christian Resch3, Roberto García-Ruíz4, and Lionel Mabit3
1Institute for Sustainable Agriculture-CSIC, Córdoba, Spain
2Applied Physics Dept., University of Córdoba, Spain
3Soil and Water Management and Crop Nutrition Laboratory, FAO/IAEA Agriculture & Biotechnology Laboratory, IAEA Laboratories Seibersdorf, Austria
4Animal and Plant Biology and Ecology Dept., Ecology section, Center for advance studies in olive groves and olive oils, University of Jaén, Spain
This study compares the distribution of bulk soil organic carbon (SOC also reported as Corg), its fractions (unprotected, physical, chemical and biochemically protected), available P (Pavail), organic nitrogen (Norg) and stable isotopes (δ15N and δ13C) signatures at four soil depths (0–10, 10–20, 20–30, 30–40 cm) between a nearby forested reference area and an historical olive orchard (established in 1856) located in Southern Spain. In addition, these soil properties, as well as water stable aggregates (Wsagg) were contrasted at eroding and deposition areas within the olive orchard, previously determined using 137Cs. Results highlight a significant depletion of SOC stock in the olive orchard as compared to the forested area, approximately 120 vs. 55 t C ha−1 at the top 40 cm of soil respectively, being severe in the case of unprotected carbon fraction. Erosion and deposition within the old olive orchard created large differences in soil properties along a catena, resulting in higher Corg, Pavail and Norg contents and δ15N at the deposition area and therefore defining two areas with a different soil quality status (degraded vs. non-degraded). Differences in δ15N at such different catena locations suggest that this isotopic signature has the potential for being used as an indicator of soil degradation magnitude, although additional studies would be required to confirm this finding. These overall results indicate that proper understanding of Corg content and soil quality in olive orchards require the consideration of the spatial variability induced by erosion/deposition processes for a convenient appraisal at farm scale.