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Ecosystem carbon in relation to woody plant encroachment and control: juniper systems in Oregon, USA

TitleEcosystem carbon in relation to woody plant encroachment and control: juniper systems in Oregon, USA
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsAbdallah, MAB, Mata-González, R, Noller, JS, Ochoa, CG
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems & Environment
Date PublishedJan-03-2020
KeywordsAboveground carbon stock, Belowground carbon stock, Juniperus occidentalis, Watershed management, Woody plant encroachment

The encroachment of western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) trees represents a substantial problem in Oregon rangelands because of the displacement of understory vegetation of importance to wildlife and livestock. Therefore, the control of this species is a common ecological restoration practice. However, western juniper control may also affect the carbon sequestration capacity for an area, although this effect is not well understood. Our study site was a paired watershed in central Oregon where western juniper trees were cut in one watershed (treated, 116 ha) and were left intact in another (untreated, 96 ha). Thirteen years after control, we quantified aboveground carbon stocks for western juniper trees, shrubs, grasses, and litter in both the treated and untreated watersheds. We also quantified belowground carbon stocks (roots and soil) in both watersheds at two soil depths (0−25 cm and 25−50 cm). Aboveground carbon stocks were 5.8 times greater in the untreated than in the treated watershed. On the other hand, root carbon stocks were 2.6 times greater in the treated than in the untreated watershed. Soil carbon stocks at both 0−25 cm and 25−50 cm depth were not affected by juniper control. Overall, total ecosystem carbon stocks (average 137.6 Mg C ha−1) were not different between watersheds. Most carbon resided belowground (soil 0−50 cm and roots); 84% and 97% of the total ecosystem carbon, respectively, was found in the untreated and treated watershed. Juniper control represents benefits such as habitat restoration for native wildlife, increased forage for livestock, and restoration of hydrological functions. Our study provides basis to suggest that the benefits of juniper control can be attained without substantially affecting the potential for ecosystem carbon sequestration.

Short TitleJuniper carbon Oregon