Soil Research Soil Research Society
Soil, land care and environmental research

Soil organic carbon stocks in saline and sodic landscapes

Vanessa N. L. Wong A B E , Brian W. Murphy C , Terry B. Koen C , Richard S. B. Greene A and Ram C. Dalal B D

A Fenner School of Environment and Society, The Australian National University; Co-operative Research Centre for Landscape Environments and Mineral Exploration, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

B Co-operative Research Centre for Greenhouse Accounting.

C New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change, PO Box 445, Cowra, NSW 2794, Australia.

D Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Water, 80 Meiers Road, Indooroopilly, Qld 4068, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Current address: Geoscience Australia, GPO Box 378, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia. Email:

Australian Journal of Soil Research 46(4) 378-389
Submitted: 15 October 2007  Accepted: 23 April 2008   Published: 23 June 2008


Increasing salinity (high levels of water-soluble salts) and sodicity (high levels of exchangeable sodium) are serious land degradation issues worldwide. In Australia, salinity and sodicity affect a large proportion of the landscape and often coincide with agricultural land. Despite the areal extent of salt-affected soils, both worldwide and in Australia, few data exist on soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks in these areas. For this study, the level of SOC was determined in scalded (bare areas without vegetation), scalded-eroded, vegetated, and revegetated (i.e. sown pasture) soil profiles from 2 sites in the Southern Tablelands region of New South Wales, Australia. SOC concentration was significantly higher in the profiles that were vegetated with native pasture (1.96–2.71% in the 0–0.05 m layer) or revegetated with sown pasture (2.35% in the 0–0.05 m layer), and lower in those profiles that were scalded (1.52% in the 0–0.05 m layer) or scalded-eroded (0.16–0.30% in the 0–0.05 m layer). These lower SOC levels are reflected throughout the profiles of the scalded and scalded-eroded soils. The soil carbon stocks to 0.30 m are also much lower in the scalded and scalded-eroded soils that have been affected by salinity and sodicity. The profiles that were vegetated with native pasture had carbon stocks to 0.30 m of 35.2–53.5 t/ha, while the sown pasture had 42.1 t/ha. This compares with the scalded profiles with 19.8 t/ha and the scalded-eroded profiles with 7.7–11.4 t/ha to 0.30 m. The presence of vegetation ameliorates several soil properties and results in the differences in SOC and other soil properties between scalded and vegetated profiles at the surface and at depth.

Additional keywords: salinity, sodicity, revegetation, eroded, SOC.


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