δ13C values of soil organic carbon and their responses to C3 and C4 plants shift in Mengzi karst graben basin, SW China
Understanding the controlling factors of soil organic carbon isotope (δ13CSOC) change and the vegetation succession process is crucial to guide ecological restoration and agricultural cultivation in karst rocky desertification region. However, the information about the combination of C3 and C4 plant distribution and rocky desertification remains unknown. Soils from different landforms, including basin, slope, and plateau, were sampled to investigate the spatial variance of the δ13CSOC distribution characteristics. The contribution of C3 and C4 plant species for δ13CSOC under the different rocky desertification grades (LRD: light rocky desertification; MRD: moderate rocky desertification; and SRD: severe rocky desertification) in Mengzi karst graben basin of Southwest (SW) China was also discussed. The δ13CSOC value decreased with the increase of altitude from basin, slope to plateau. At the same landform, different rocky desertification grades had no significant effect on the δ13CSOC in slope and plateau. Nevertheless, there were significant differences of δ13CSOC C between LRD and SRD in the basin. The C4 plants account for more than 70% in the basin and slope, while C3 plants account for more than 70% in the plateau. This may be due to the long-term cultivation of corn in the historical period in the basin and slope. However, the plateau area is not suitable for the growth of C4 plants such as corn due to the cold climate. In addition, in the same landform, with the aggravation of rocky desertification, the proportion of C4 plants for δ13CSOC increased with the proportion of C3 plants decreased. With the aggravation of rocky desertification, the composition of vegetation species changed from arbour (C3 plants) to small shrubs and herbs (C4 plants).
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