Terrestrial carbon stocks following 15 years of integrated watershed management intervention in semi-arid Ethiopia

Tigist Araya Gessesse, Asia Khamzina, Girmay Gebresamuel, Wulf Amelung

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15 Citations (Scopus)


Our study investigated the total terrestrial stock of organic carbon and its controlling factors in prevalent land‐use systems in semi-arid Ethiopia (610 mm of annual rainfall), as part of the impact assessment of the national Integrated Watershed Management (IWM) program. Above- and below-ground biomass and soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks of major land-use systems (i.e., exclosure, cropland, rangeland, and bare land) were quantified after field sampling along a topographic gradient. We found that aboveground carbon stocks peaked in the 15-year-old exclosures (9.08 ± 1.44 Mg ha−1) owing to intact woody and grass vegetation as well as substantial litter cover (>20% of the total biomass). Croplands cultivated with wheat and rangelands vegetated with perennial grasses showed average aboveground carbon stocks of 3.16 ± 0.24 and 1.45 ± 0.19 Mg ha−1, respectively. The belowground biomass carbon stock was particularly low in croplands (0.76 ± 0.09 Mg ha−1), exceeded by that in both exclosures and rangelands, where values averaged 3.67 ± 0.06 and 3.04 ± 0.42 Mg ha−1, respectively. The topsoil (0–30 cm) SOC stocks also varied with land-use systems but showed a different order, peaking in rangelands (53.9 ± 10.1 Mg ha−1) and exclosures (41.4 ± 8.1 Mg ha−1), followed by bare lands (29.0 ± 11.5 Mg ha−1) and croplands (26.4 ± 4.6 Mg ha−1). The sub-soils (30–100 cm) added 40% to this SOC storage. The greatest total SOC stock identified in exclosures that had been established primarily on degraded hillslopes may signify a successful restoration effort under the IWM program. However, croplands exhibited the lowest SOC stock, which implies the need for urgent interventions to improve the soil fertility.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104543
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jul

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Foundation fiat panis (Germany). Additional support from Korea University (South Korea) through Korea University Grant is gratefully acknowledged. The authors thank Mulugeta Sbhatleab, Tesfay Berihu and Angelika Glogau for their support in the laboratory work and Askual Weldu, YemaneWelday, and Negasi Solomon for their support during the field survey.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier B.V.


  • Biomass carbon
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Land-use system
  • Soil organic carbon stock
  • Tigray

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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