Great Plains Studies, Center for



Comparison of Botanical Composition, Soil Carbon Content, and Root Distribution of Subirrigated Meadows in The Nebraska Sandhills

Date of this Version

Spring 2007


Published in GREAT PLAINS RESEARCH 17:1, pages 47-60 (Spring 2007). Copyright © 2007 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln.


Characterizing vegetation composition, carbon/nitrogen (C/N) content of soils, and root-mass distribution is critical to understanding carbon sequestration potential of subirrigated meadows in the Nebraska Sandhills. Five subirrigated meadows dominated by cool-season (C3) graminoids and five meadows dominated by warm-season (C4) grasses were selected throughout the Nebraska Sandhills. Vegetation, soil carbon and nitrogen, and root-mass density distribution were sampled in each meadow. Meadows dominated by C3 vegetation had 12% greater (P < 0.1) yields than meadows dominated by C4 vegetation. Total root-mass density was 30% greater (P < 0.1) in C4-dominated meadows than C3-dominated meadows. Total carbon and nitrogen content was 65% and 53% greater (P < 0.1), respectively, in the A horizon of C3-dominated meadows, but was 43% and 52% greater (P < 0.1), respectively, in the C horizon of C4-dominated meadows. Although meadows dominated by C3 vegetation had more carbon in the soil profile, much of the carbon in C3-dominated meadows appeared to be recalcitrant C4 carbon from historic vegetation.

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