Climate change impacts on agriculture and soil carbon sequestration potential in the Huang-Hai Plain of China
For thousands of years the Huang-Hai Plain in northeast China has been one of the most productive agricultural regions of the country. The future of this region will be determined in large part by how global climatic changes impact regional conditions and by actions taken to mitigate or adapt to climate change impacts. One potential mitigation strategy is to promote management practices that have the potential to sequester carbon in the soils. The IPCC estimates that 40 Pg of C could be sequestered in cropland soils worldwide over the next several decades; however, changes in global climate may impact this potential. Here we assess the potential for soil C sequestration with conversion of a conventional till (CT) continuous wheat system to a wheat-corn double cropping system and by implementing no till (NT) management for both continuous wheat and wheat-corn systems. To assess the influence of these management practices under a changing climate, we use two climate change scenarios (A2 and B2) at two time periods in the EPIC agro-ecosystem simulation model. The applied climate change scenarios are from the HadCM3 Global Climate Model for the periods 2015-2045 and 2070-2099 which projects consistent increases in temperature and precipitation of greater than 5 °C and up to 300 mm by 2099. An increase in the variability of temperature is also projected and is, accordingly, applied in the simulations. The EPIC model indicates that winter wheat yields would increase on average by 0.2 Mg ha-1 in the earlier period and by 0.8 Mg ha-1 in the later period due to warmer nighttime temperatures and higher precipitation. Simulated yields were not significantly affected by imposed changes in crop management. Simulated soil organic C content was higher under both NT management and double cropping than under CT continuous wheat. The simulated changes in management were a more important factor in SOC changes than the scenario of climate change. Soil C sequestration rates for continuous wheat systems were increased by an average of 0.4 Mg ha-1 yr-1 by NT in the earlier period and by 0.2 Mg ha-1 yr-1 in the later period. With wheat-corn double cropping, NT increased sequestration rates by 0.8 and 0.4 Mg ha-1 yr-1 for the earlier and later periods, respectively. The total C offset due to a shift from CT to NT under continuous wheat over 16 million hectares in the Huang-Hai Plain is projected to reach 240 Tg C in the earlier period and 180 Tg C in the later period. Corresponding C offsets for wheat-corn cropping are 675 to 495 Tg C.