Assessment of land cover changes and their effect on soil organic carbon and soil total nitrogen in daqing prefecture, China

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)520-531
Journal / PublicationLand Degradation and Development
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


The aim of this study was to examine the influence of land cover changes on soil organic carbon (SOC) and soil total nitrogen (STN) in the Daqing Prefecture of China, where heavy industrialisation in the form of dense oil wells has impacted the environment. Time-series presentations for the period 1978 to 2008 of remotely sensed data and soil survey data were used to assess the extent of the changes. The study revealed soil degradation under all land cover types and in all soil types, grassland retreat (-15 per cent), swampland retreat (-45 per cent) and increases in the area of farmland (+19 per cent), sand land (+1450 per cent) and alkaline land (+52 per cent). Depletion of the SOC pool occurred in swampland (-64 per cent) both because of the decrease in the area of swampland and because of a decrease in SOC density (-34 per cent). An increase in the SOC pool occurred in alkaline land because of the increase in the area and also because of an increase in SOC density (+297 per cent), but there was little change in the SOC pool in farmland because the increase in area was largely offset by a decrease in SOC density (-14 per cent). The decrease in the STN pool was substantial (-44 per cent), with the largest contributor being the decrease in swamplands (-74 per cent), partly because of the decrease in the area of swampland and partly because of a decrease in STN density (-52 per cent). Large decreases in the STN pool also occurred in farmland (-22 per cent) and grassland (-41 per cent). The direct impacts of construction associated with the expansion of the oil industry were overshadowed by indirect impacts such as interference with water flows and water levels resulting in salinisation of soil. The study also revealed that land cover changes are much more dynamic than a simple analysis would reveal, and because of lag times in the loss of SOC, soil degradation will continue even if land cover changes cease.

Research Area(s)

  • Daqing, Land cover, Soil organic carbon, Total nitrogen