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Above and belowground carbon stocks differ among meadow vegetation communities in the northern Sierra Nevada, California USA
AdvisorSullivan, Benjamin W.
Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences
StatisticsView Usage Statistics
AbstractWhile they cover a relatively small geographic area, montane meadows are hotspots of soil carbon (C) and are characterized by diverse vegetation communities. Estimates of C stocks in meadows could be improved by linking vegetation communities to above- and belowground C stocks. Here, we explored the spatial distribution of above- and belowground C stocks associated with different vegetation communities from the center of a meadow to the forest edge in eight montane meadows in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, USA. We found significant differences in belowground C stocks among vegetation communities within most meadows. Meadows that were adjacent to Pinus jeffreyi forest showed strong associations between belowground C stocks and vegetation communities, but meadows that were adjacent to mixed conifer forest did not. Belowground C stocks represented the dominant fraction of the total ecosystem C stock in all meadows. The presence of shrubs and establishing trees in meadows generally corresponded with lower belowground and total C stocks. The increase in aboveground C in communities with shrubs or establishing trees did not offset the decrease in belowground C relative to herbaceous plant communities. Though meadows are hydrologically dynamic ecosystems, vegetation communities exhibit strong controls over the quantity and location of C stocks within the ecosystem that may be identified by the composition of the surrounding forest. Our data provide a reference point for future efforts to manage C stocks in Sierra Nevada meadows.