Methods for estimating types of soil organic carbon and their application to surveys of UK urban areas

Rawlins, BG; Vane, Christopher ORCID:; Kim, Alexander; Tye, Andrew; Kemp, Simon ORCID:; Bellamy, P. 2008 Methods for estimating types of soil organic carbon and their application to surveys of UK urban areas. Soil Use and Management, 24 (1). 47-59.

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The occurrence of substantial quantities of black carbon (BC) in urban soil due to local dispersal following incomplete combustion of fossil fuel complicates the determination of labile soil organic carbon (SOC). Estimates of SOC content were made from loss on ignition (LOI) analyses undertaken on samples (0–15 cm depth) from comprehensive soil geochemical surveys of three UK urban areas. We randomly selected 10 samples from each decile of the LOI distribution for each of the surveys of Coventry (n = 808), Stoke-on-Trent (n = 737) and Glasgow (n = 1382) to investigate the proportions of labile SOC and BC. We determined their total organic carbon (TOC) and BC contents, and by difference the labile SOC content, and investigated the linear relationship of the latter with SOC estimates based on LOI analyses. There was no evidence for a difference in the slope of the regression for the three urban areas. We then used a linear regression of labile SOC based on LOI analyses (r2 = 0.81) to predict labile SOC for all survey samples from the three urban areas. We attribute the significantly higher median BC concentrations in Glasgow (1.77%, compared with 0.46 and 0.59% in Coventry and Stoke-on-Trent) to greater dispersal of coal ash across the former. An analysis of the 30 samples showed that LOI at 450 C accounts for a consistent proportion of BC in each sample (r2 = 0.97). Differences between TOC (combustion at 1050 C after removal of inorganic carbon) and an LOI estimate of SOC may be a cost-effective method for estimation of BC. Previous approaches to estimation of urban SOC contents based on half the mean SOC content of the equivalent associations under pasture, underestimate the empirical mean value.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: BGS Programmes > Sustainable Soils
ISSN: 0266-0032
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: The definitive version is available at
Additional Keywords: Soils, Great Britain, Carbon, Linear regression
NORA Subject Terms: Agriculture and Soil Science
Ecology and Environment
Earth Sciences
Date made live: 30 Apr 2008 14:26 +0 (UTC)

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