Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Modeling watershed carbon dynamics as affected by land cover change and soil erosion

September 11, 2021

Process-based ecosystem carbon cycle models typically incorporate vegetation growth, vegetation mortality, and soil respiration as well as the biotic and environmental drivers that influence these variables. However, few spatially explicit process models can efficiently incorporate the influence of land cover change and carbon lateral movement at regional scales or high spatial resolution. This study uses the Land Use and Carbon Scenario Simulator (LUCAS) to demonstrate the development of a fast ecosystem model that not only considers the basic carbon cycle but also incorporates the impact of land cover change, soil erosion, and soil deposition. As input to the LUCAS modeling framework, we used the integrated biosphere simulator (IBIS) to simulate a non-spatial reference carbon cycling scenario without considering land cover change for the Nisqually River watershed in the northwestern United States. We then used the Land Change Monitoring, Assessment, and Projection (LCMAP) remotely sensed 30-m sequential land cover data to generate annual land change history for the Nisqually River area from 1985 to 2017 and used the Unit Stream Powered Erosion and Deposition model (USPED) to estimate annual soil carbon lateral movement. Finally, we combined the annual carbon outputs from IBIS, the land change history from LCMAP, and the soil erosion and deposition from USPED within the LUCAS simulation framework. Results showed that from 1985 to 2017, along with the dynamic land cover changes, total ecosystem biomass carbon increased from 11.4 to 18.6 TgC, mainly due to forest growth. Total ecosystem soil carbon declined from 31.7 to 29.7 TgC, but the overall loss in soil carbon was not uniform across land cover types. Forestland (forest sector) and grassland lost carbon, while wetland, developed land and agricultural land gained carbon. Forest, grassland, and developed land lost 0.0553 TgC during the study period (1.73 Gg of C per year; 1 Gg = 0.001 Tg) from erosion, while wetland gained 0.0071 TgC (0.22 Gg C per year) from deposition. Agricultural land was neutral in terms of soil erosion.

Publication Year 2021
Title Modeling watershed carbon dynamics as affected by land cover change and soil erosion
DOI 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2021.109724
Authors Jinxun Liu, Benjamin M. Sleeter, Paul Selmants, Jiaojiao Diao, Qiang Zhou, Bruce Worstell, Monica Mei Jeen Moritsch
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecological Modelling
Index ID 70243718
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center; Western Geographic Science Center