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The importance of rock fragment density for the calculation of soil bulk density and soil organic carbon stocks

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Mehler,  Knut
Department Biogeochemical Processes, Prof. E.-D. Schulze, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Schöning,  Ingo
Soil and Ecosystem Processes, Dr. M. Schrumpf, Department Biogeochemical Processes, Prof. S. E. Trumbore, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Mehler, K., Schöning, I., & Berli, M. (2014). The importance of rock fragment density for the calculation of soil bulk density and soil organic carbon stocks. Soil Science Society of America, 78(4), 1186-1191. doi:10.2136/sssaj2013.11.0480.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-001A-057E-2
Abstract
To determine the bulk density of the fine fraction (BDFF) and soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks from core samples of a known volume, the volume of discarded rock fragments (RFs) has to be known. Measuring the RF density (ρRF) is labor intensive and time consuming, so the volume of RFs is often estimated based on measured RF mass and constant values for ρRF. In this study, we determined the ρRF of 87 soils in Germany and showed how different ρRF of limestone affected the calculation of BDFF and SOC stocks. For limestone, the measured ρRF in our soils was lower (2.49 ± 0.14 g cm-3) than a constant value of 2.70 g cm-3. The average difference in BDFF and SOC was 2.30 and 2.35%, respectively, which was lower than errors that arose from sampling or analytical techniques. However, differences in the BDFF and SOC stocks can be as high as 37% when ρRF is below 2.20 g cm-3 and there is an increase in the subsoil RF content of up to 70%. Therefore, accurately determining the ρRF, at least in the subsoil, is recommended when RFs dominate the total volume of the sample to reduce potential measurement errors. The necessity of using the actual ρRF instead of using a constant value depends on the variation in ρRF, the RF content, and the intended accuracy of the BDFF and SOC stock estimation.