How do hedgerows influence soil organic carbon stock in livestock-grazed pasture?

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Hedgerows have the potential to influence ecosystem function in livestock-grazed pasture. Despite this, they are often ignored when quantifying farmland ecosystem service delivery. In this study, we assess the contribution of hedgerows to the ecosystem function of carbon (C) storage, with a particular emphasis on soil organic carbon (SOC). We measured SOC stock (kg C m-2), on an equivalent soil mass basis, at 0-0.15 m depth in pasture adjacent to 38 hedgerows (biotic) and 16 stone walls or fences (abiotic controls) across ten farms in the county of Conwy, Wales, UK. Pasture SOC stock (~7 kg C m-2) was similar adjacent to biotic and abiotic field boundaries, positively associated with soil moisture and negatively with soil bulk density (BD). For biotic boundaries two further variables were significantly associated with SOC stock, distance from hedgerow (decrease in SOC stock) and slope orientation (upslope SOC stock greater than downslope). For pasture adjacent to hedgerows a model combining the aforementioned variables (BD, soil moisture, distance from hedgerow, slope orientation) explained 78% of variation in SOC stock. This study demonstrates that, whilst hedgerows do have subtle positive effects on SOC stock in adjacent pasture, SOC storage adjacent to field boundaries is influenced more by soil moisture content and BD than field boundary type.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)576-584
JournalSoil Use and Management
Issue number4
Early online date12 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2019

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