Belowground carbon storage and dynamics accompanying woody plant encroachment in a subtropical savanna

T. W. Boutton, J. D. Liao, T. R. Filley, S. R. Archer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

38 Scopus citations


This chapter focuses on the Rio Grande Plains of southern Texas, where C3 subtropical thorn woodlands dominated by highly productive N-fixing tree legumes have largely replaced C4 grasslands over the past 100 to 150 yr. This vegetation change has increased rates of above- and below-ground productivity in wooded areas relative to remnant grasslands. The chapter assesses the impact of grassland-to-woodland conversion on the soil carbon cycle in the Rio Grande Plains of southern Texas by quantifying rates of soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration following grassland-to-woodland conversion, and evaluating the role of physical and biochemical mechanisms of SOC stabilization. It also assesses the relative importance of residual grassland-derived C4-C versus C3 woodland-derived carbon inputs to total SOC content in bulk soil, and estimates turnover rates of SOC in bulk soil using the natural isotopic difference between C4 grasses and C3 woody plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSoil Carbon Sequestration and the Greenhouse Effect
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9780891188599
ISBN (Print)9780891188506
StatePublished - Oct 26 2015


  • Belowground carbon dynamics
  • Belowground carbon storage
  • Grassland-to-woodland conversion
  • Remnant grasslands
  • Soil characterization
  • Soil organic carbon sequestration
  • Subtropical savanna
  • Woody plant encroachment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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