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Improved wetland soil organic carbon stocks of the conterminous U.S. through data harmonization

January 1, 2021

Wetland soil stocks are important global repositories of carbon (C) but are difficult to quantify and model due to varying sampling protocols, and geomorphic/spatio-temporal discontinuity. Merging scales of soil-survey spatial extents with wetland-specific point-based data offers an explicit, empirical and updatable improvement for regional and continental scale soil C stock assessments. Agency-collected (U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and community-contributed soil datasets were compared for representativeness and bias, with the goal of producing a harmonized national map of wetland soil C stocks with error quantification for wetland areas of the conterminous United States (CONUS) identified by the USGS National Landcover Change Dataset (NLCD). This allowed application of an empirical predictive model of SOC density to be applied across the entire CONUS using relational %OC distribution alone. A broken-stick quantile-regression model identified %OC with its relatively high analytical confidence as a key predictor of SOC density in soil segments; soils less than 6%OC (hereafter, mineral wetland soils, 85% of the dataset) had a strong linear relationship of %OC to SOC density (RMSE = 0.0059, ~4% mean RMSE) and soils greater than 6%OC (organic wetland soils, 15% of the dataset) had virtually no predictive relationship of %OC to SOC density (RMSE = 0.0348 g C cm-3, ~56% mean RMSE). Disaggregation by vegetation type (woody v. emergent herbaceous), or region did not alter the breakpoint significantly (6% OC) nor improve model accuracies for inland and tidal wetlands. Similarly, SOC stocks in tidal wetlands were related to %OC, but without a mappable product for disaggregation to improve accuracy by soil class, region or depth. Our layered, harmonized CONUS wetland soil maps have now revised wetland SOC stock estimates downward by 24% (9.5 vs. 12.5Pg C) with the overestimation being entirely an issue of inland, organic wetland soils, (35% lower than SSURGO-derived SOC stocks). Further, SSURGO underestimated soil carbon stocks at depth, as modeled wetland SOC stocks for organic-rich soils showed significant preservation downcore in the NWCA dataset (<3% loss between 0-30 cm and 30-100 cm depths) in contrast to mineral-rich soils (37% downcore stock loss). Future CONUS wetland soil C assessments will benefit from focused attention on improved organic wetland soil measurements, land history, and spatial representativeness.

Publication Year 2021
Title Improved wetland soil organic carbon stocks of the conterminous U.S. through data harmonization
DOI 10.3389/fsoil.2021.706701
Authors Bergit Rose Uhran, Lisamarie Windham-Myers, Norman B. Bliss, Amanda M. Nahlik, Eric T. Sundquist, Camille L. Stagg
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Frontiers in Soil Science
Index ID 70227786
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center; Wetland and Aquatic Research Center; WMA - Earth System Processes Division; Florence Bascom Geoscience Center