Spatial Distribution of Soil Organic Carbon and Total Nitrogen Based on GIS and Geostatistics in a Small Watershed in a Hilly Area of Northern China

PLOS_ONEPLOS One, Published Online 31 December 2013

By Gao Peng, Wang Bing, Geng Guangpo, and Zhang Guangcan

“The spatial variability of soil organic carbon (SOC) and total nitrogen (STN) levels is important in both global carbon-nitrogen cycle and climate change research. There has been little research on the spatial distribution of SOC and STN at the watershed scale based on geographic information systems (GIS) and geostatistics. Ninety-seven soil samples taken at depths of 0–20 cm were collected during October 2010 and 2011 from the Matiyu small watershed (4.2 km2) of a hilly area in Shandong Province, northern China. The impacts of different land use types, elevation, vegetation coverage and other factors on SOC and STN spatial distributions were examined using GIS and a geostatistical method, regression-kriging.

Distribution map of SOC and STN concentrations by regression-kriging (a, b) and ordinary kriging (c, d) in Matiyu small watershed.

Distribution map of SOC and STN concentrations by regression-kriging (a, b) and ordinary kriging (c, d) in Matiyu small watershed.

“The results show that the concentration variations of SOC and STN in the Matiyu small watershed were moderate variation based on the mean, median, minimum and maximum, and the coefficients of variation (CV). Residual values of SOC and STN had moderate spatial autocorrelations, and the Nugget/Sill were 0.2% and 0.1%, respectively. Distribution maps of regression-kriging revealed that both SOC and STN concentrations in the Matiyu watershed decreased from southeast to northwest. This result was similar to the watershed DEM trend and significantly correlated with land use type, elevation and aspect. SOC and STN predictions with the regression-kriging method were more accurate than those obtained using ordinary kriging. This research indicates that geostatistical characteristics of SOC and STN concentrations in the watershed were closely related to both land-use type and spatial topographic structure and that regression-kriging is suitable for investigating the spatial distributions of SOC and STN in the complex topography of the watershed.”