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Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

Soil organic carbon variation in relation to land use changes: the case of Birr watershed, upper Blue Nile River Basin, Ethiopia

Amanuel, Wondimagegn; Yimer, Fantaw; Karltun, Erik


Background: This study investigated the variation of soil organic carbon in four land cover types: natural and mixed forest, cultivated land, Eucalyptus plantation and open bush land. The study was conducted in the Birr watershed of the upper Blue Nile (‘Abbay’) river basin. Methods: The data was subjected to a two-way of ANOVA analysis using the general linear model (GLM) procedures of SAS. Pairwise comparison method was also used to assess the mean difference of the land uses and depth levels depending on soil properties. Total of 148 soil samples were collected from two depth layers: 0–10 and 10–20 cm. Results: The results showed that overall mean soil organic carbon stock was higher under natural and mixed forest land use compared with other land use types and at all depths (29.62 ± 1.95 Mg C ha− 1 ), which was 36.14, 28.36, and 27.63% more than in cultivated land, open bush land, and Eucalyptus plantation, respectively. This could be due to greater inputs of vegetation and reduced decomposition of organic matter. On the other hand, the lowest soil organic carbon stock under cultivated land could be due to reduced inputs of organic matter and frequent tillage which encouraged oxidation of organic matter. Conclusions: Hence, carbon concentrations and stocks under natural and mixed forest and Eucalyptus plantation were higher than other land use types suggesting that two management strategies for improving soil conditions in the watershed: to maintain and preserve the forest in order to maintain carbon storage in the future and to recover abandoned crop land and degraded lands by establishing tree plantations to avoid overharvesting in natural forests.


Soil organic carbon; Soil properties; Land use change; Blue Nile Basin

Published in

Journal of Ecology and Environment
2018, Volume: 42, article number: 16

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Soil Science

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