SPECTRA: Soil Processes and Ecological Services in the Karst Critical Zone of Southwest China

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

The SPECTRA programme seeks to enhance the sustainable development of one of the poorest regions of China, Guizhou, through cutting edge critical zone science undertaken by integrated, complementary and multidisciplinary teams of Chinese and UK scientists. The key question for management of the karst landscapes of SW China is "how can the highly heterogeneous critical zone resources be restored, to enable sustainable delivery of ecosystem services?"

We know little about the geological, hydrological and ecological processes which control soil fertility and soil function in these landscapes and how best to manage them to maximise ecosystem service delivery. SPECTRA has been designed to address these questions through a suite of 4 interlinked workpackages.

The CZ will span a gradient from undisturbed natural vegetation through to human perturbed and highly degraded landscapes. Using cutting-edge approaches we will integrate measurements of:

(1) the three-dimensional distribution of plants (including roots), soil, fungi, and microbes;
(2) rates of rock weathering, elemental release and soil formation processes;
(3) rates of erosion and soil redistribution; and,
(4) pools and fluxes of soil organic C (SOC), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P).

This will allow us to identify the biological controls on nutrient availability, soil formation and loss in the CZ and their response to perturbation, providing the rich evidence base needed to inform land management decision-making in the Guizhou province. In doing so, SPECTRA will directly address the Newton Fund objective of enhancing economic development and social welfare by providing rigorous applied scientific knowledge that will underpin the development of strategies to improve net ecological service delivery from the karst landscape, informing realistic economic and ecological compensation plans to alleviate poverty, particularly for the households that rely on fragile soils for a living.

The project is also designed to maximise the benefits to the science communities of both countries, thereby bringing significant institutional benefits to all partners. Training of Chinese Early Career Researchers in state-of-the-art approaches and techniques in leading UK laboratories is an absolute priority of the scientific partnership, and combined with the networking opportunities between project partners in the global CZ community, will contribute significantly to meeting the Newton Fund objective of building the capacity for CZ Science in China.

The ultimate beneficiaries of this project will be the people of Guizhou karst region (population 35 million), which is one of the poorest regions in China with a GDP less than 50% of the national average. In response to the environmental deterioration and changing social conditions in the Guizhou karst region, the Chinese government has intervened to promote the abandonment of the most degraded cultivated land and its succession to grassland, shrub and forest. This strategy has met with mixed success and is not yet underpinned by well-developed plans to repay landowners for rational and sustainable use of land resources. This must be informed by science that quantifies current and potential ecosystem service delivery. There is significant potential for our research on the response, resilience and recovery of the karst critical zone to perturbation to inform improved land management strategies that will meet these demands, leading in turn to improved delivery of ecosystem services to the communities in this region and higher environmental quality, addressing poverty and the welfare of the population through development of long-term sustainable economic development.

Planned Impact

In the long term the indirect beneficiaries of this research will be the general population of the Guizhou karst region (~35 million people). This is one of the poorest regions in China with a GDP less than 50% of the national average. The karst landscapes of the region are very susceptible to perturbation, and many parts of Guizhou province have suffered severe land degradation due to deforestation and inappropriate agricultural practices. Subsequently, this area currently has very limited potential for the development of sustainable agriculture to meet the demands of contemporary local population pressures. The region has also seen the migration of young adults to the cities, leaving the elderly and very young responsible for much of the agricultural production. Thus, the Chinese government is planning to implement appropriate land management policies to address this situation, which need to be informed by robust science that quantifies current and potential ecosystem service delivery. There is, therefore, significant potential for our research to inform improved land management strategies that will meet these demands. This will in turn lead to improved delivery of ecosystem services to the communities in this region and higher environmental quality, addressing poverty and the welfare of the population through development of sustainable land resource management and long-term sustainable economic development.

More immediate and specific users of this research include state government officials, and policy makers, land managers and land users in the Guizhou region. They will benefit from a rich evidence base on which to make land management and planning decisions. At meetings in China, we will communicate the results of our research directly to these key stakeholders including the Soil and Water Conservation Monitoring Station of Guizhou and the Puding Karst Ecosystem Observation Station. At these meetings we will engage in design and development of sustainable land use strategies and policies. We will build on the highly successful farmer-scientist participant model of extension 'Science and Technology Backyard' by developing the first such programme in Guizhou. We have already engaged with and, have the support of, each of the local stakeholders and the lead scientist of the nationwide STB programme.

The integration of the new China karst CZO within the international CZ programme will provide unprecedented feedback and expertise from the whole network, linking experience across scales, from the Guizhou citizen challenged by land degradation and poverty, to others across the world engaged in understanding and developing solutions to ecosystem service delivery and maintenance in a multitude of environments.
Schoolchildren in the Guizhou region of China and in the UK will also benefit from increased awareness of threats in both countries to the environment, their country's 'environmental footprint' and the need for sustainable land management, as well as educational links with schools in other countries.

Ultimately, human society stands to benefit from a deeper understanding of the karst CZ, and the need to preserve its very high aesthetic value which is depicted in many Chinese art forms. Karst is an outstanding cultural landscape because it has seen thousands of years of human occupation in harmony with the landscape, until very recently. Areas of karst in Guizhou province are part of the South China Karst UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the region boasts the world reference site for a mature karst landscape called 'cone karst'. For the local population of Guizhou, active maintenance of this unique landscape will deliver economic benefits through the national and international leisure and tourism industry.

Publications

10 25 50

 
Description We have discovered that the soils overlying karst limestone in the agricultural field site of the SPECTRA CZO in Guizhou, China, is formed from the silicate mineral impurities left behind when the limestone and dolostone rock dissolves away during weathering. Therefore, natural soil nutrients and soil fertility in this context depend on the distribution of these impurities in the rock. Furthermore, the fertility of such soils is very sensitive to disturbance because the production of nutrients by rock weathering is a much slower process than the human-driven activities that deplete them.
We have found changes in soil microbial function along a space-for-time substitution chronosequence of vegetation recovery established in the Puding Karst CZO. Microbial abundance was lowest in the cropland and increased with progressive vegetation recovery2. In rhizosphere soils from primary forest, ectomycorrhizae and arbuscular mycorrhizae were correlated with increased soil phosphorus or soil nitrogen availability, respectively3. Plant litter inputs and reduced net soil erosion correlated with increased soil organic carbon (SOC), dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and soil water contents (SWC)4. Direct and indirect (e.g. pH) effects of cessation of cultivation and chronic N fertilisation on the activity of enzymes associated with the cycling of carbon (ßX, ßG and NAG), nitrogen (LAP) and phosphorus (AP) were observed as soil conditions (SWC, pH, DOC, NO3 and NH4) changed from cropland to secondary forest5,6. Total and available phosphorus and phosphatases were relatively high in cropland soils compared to abandoned cropland and secondary forest, but all previously cultivated soils were phosphorus-deficient compared with primary forest soils6. The soils in this environment are severely limited by phosphorus availability and this affects the overall health and growth of plants. We found that the addition of oxalic acid to simulate the action of organic acids exuded by mycorrhizal fungi (commonly thought to be the dominant way plants obtain phosphorus in such environments) did not significantly affect the amount of phosphorus taken up by plants.
The abundance of nitrogen functional genes was consistent with a shift from ammonia oxidation (AOA and AOB) in cropland soils, to nitrogen fixation and organic matter decomposition (nifH and chiA) and increased N storage potential and N2O emissions (nirK and nirS) in primary forest soils7. Archaeal biomarkers (branched GDGTs) were increased in farmland soils2. Although a progressive reduction in reactive N (Nr) was expected along the recovery gradient, an increase in both NO3 and NH4 correlated with reduced fungal:bacterial ratios (F:B, estimated using amino sugars8 and PLFA2) in the secondary forest soils indicating an unquantified source of N input in Chenqi catchment2,5.

We recommend that the legacy of chronic N inputs to karst ecosystems needs active management to accelerate vegetative recovery that stabilises soils. This includes: (1) monitoring and amending soil C:N:P stoichiometry at each recovery stage; (2) buffering soil acidity by increasing soil organic matter; (3) identification and remediation of the unknown source of Nr in secondary forests.
In addition, a link between lithology and the structure and distribution of the soil has been established, which further determines the cover of woody plants and herbaceous plants in the aboveground vegetation9. Although the amount of soil in the limestone area may be less than that in the dolomite area, the developed crevice structure is more suitable for the growth of trees in deep roots, and the vegetation activity is strong. At present, the treatment of rocky desertification in karst regions needs to fully consider the rock-soil-vegetation-air interactions in the karst CZ, and propose vegetation restoration measures suitable for different lithologies.
We have created a geodatabase of all sampling and analyses undertaken during the project by both UK and Chinese teams (where analytical data are not available; metadata have been included in the database). This will enable continued analysis of the data and preparation for publication beyond the life of the project.

1Green et al., submitted review; 2Hawkes, 2017, MSc thesis; 3Yang et al., in prep.; 4Quine et al., 2017; 5Shuo et al., 2018; 6Guo et al., under review; 7Li et al., 2018 SBB; 8Guo et al. in prep.; 9Liu et al. in press Science China Earth Science
Exploitation Route These findings will be useful in assessing the sensitivity of soils formed on carbonate bedrock to degradation and will be helpful in designing strategies to protect and rehabilitate such soils. Scientific findings will be of value for those investigating macronutrient-cycling in agricultural systems and in soil biological responses to land abandonment.
The findings of this project are being taken forward in the MIDST-CZ programme (http://www.czo.ac.cn/midst-czo-newsletter-1/ ). In this programme the results of the SPECTRA project will inform the development of decision support tools to aid policy-makers at county, regional and provincial level in China in planning land use that is consistent with the maintenance of ecosystem services, while recognizing the needs of local farmers. This work is being taken forwards with collaborators from Peking University and will enable another Chinese ECR to visit and spend time in the UK to be trained in decision support modelling, thereby further contributing to the ODA target of capacity building.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

URL http://www.czo.ac.cn/spectra-publications/
 
Description NERC Additional Funding: CZO
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 06/2017
 
Description NERC Capital Grant
Amount £82,000 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2016 
End 04/2018
 
Description Opening Fund of the Skate Key Laboratory of Environmental Geochemistry (Tim Barrows)
Amount £12,000 (GBP)
Funding ID SKLEG2017901 
Organisation Chinese Academy of Sciences 
Sector Public
Country China
Start 06/2017 
 
Title Application of field portable gamma spectrometery to estimate erosion rates. 
Description Artificial radionuclides were deposited worldwide due to nuclear testing during the 1950s and early 60s. Caesium-137 and other fallout radionuclides have been used to track the last ~50 years of soil erosion and redistribution on a catchment scale. Traditionally, this method has involved coring, sub-sampling, and laboratory analyses using large HPGe detectors, which can be costly and time-consuming. This application and study tested a portable gamma spectrometer (PGS), allowing for in situ field measurements of 137Cs. Data on soil redistribution patterns could be accessed more rapidly, e.g. to inform conservation projects or to target areas for additional focus. We are currently reviewing the soil models to improve the estilation of soil erosion rates using this in field-based approach. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Improvement in cost- and time-efficiency for the use of radionuclides as a tool for estimating erosion rates. 
 
Title Chinese soil archive 
Description Soil store archive of complete soil profiles including samples from karst, loess plateau and peri-urban areas. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The soil archive will provide a solid basis for future analysis and testing of newly developed hypothesis. It can be combined with other samples collected internationally. 
 
Description CZO Karst UK Partners beyond award team 
Organisation Lancaster University
Department Lancaster Environment Centre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution University of Glasgow's CZO project is closely tied with SPECTRA. We are co-located within the same karst region in southwest China. In essence, SPECTRA fouses on soil processes, whilst the University of Glasgow focusses on the hydrogeochemsitry of the CZO. Both teams have maintained close ties (discussion groups/meetings) to ensure that we are complementary in our approaches. We also share a common programme of works with Lancaster University, as part of the additional NERC-NEWTON captial bid, we were able to purchase a series of geophysical equipment and a portable gamma spectrometer. We designed a a joint programme of works and both sets of equipment have been mobilised to all four Chinese CZO's.
Collaborator Contribution As above. In addition, the University of Glasgow also host the KE funded personnel. So provide additional support in this area for our project as part of the wider programme.
Impact Several academic oral/poster papers (GSA 2016, GES-17 & EGU 2017) have been produced as a result of the collaboraiton between SPECTRA and Lancaster University.
Start Year 2017
 
Description CZO Karst UK Partners beyond award team 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Department School of Geographical and Earth Sciences Glasgow
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution University of Glasgow's CZO project is closely tied with SPECTRA. We are co-located within the same karst region in southwest China. In essence, SPECTRA fouses on soil processes, whilst the University of Glasgow focusses on the hydrogeochemsitry of the CZO. Both teams have maintained close ties (discussion groups/meetings) to ensure that we are complementary in our approaches. We also share a common programme of works with Lancaster University, as part of the additional NERC-NEWTON captial bid, we were able to purchase a series of geophysical equipment and a portable gamma spectrometer. We designed a a joint programme of works and both sets of equipment have been mobilised to all four Chinese CZO's.
Collaborator Contribution As above. In addition, the University of Glasgow also host the KE funded personnel. So provide additional support in this area for our project as part of the wider programme.
Impact Several academic oral/poster papers (GSA 2016, GES-17 & EGU 2017) have been produced as a result of the collaboraiton between SPECTRA and Lancaster University.
Start Year 2017
 
Description CZO Karst: Chinese Collaborators - Institutions 
Organisation Beijing Normal University
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Joint programme of research on the karst CZO (Puding, China) including joint planning, fieldwork, data discussions, academic publications, and IMPACT assessment.
Collaborator Contribution Joint programme of research on the karst CZO (Puding, China) including joint planning, fieldwork, data discussions, academic publications, and IMPACT assessment.
Impact Joint publications (Moore et al., 2017; Quine et al., 2017; Song et al., 2017; Ma et al., 2018, Li et al., 2018, Hao et al., 2019 ), workshops (CZO Karst sister projects, May 2017; CZO Guiyang, June 2017; Aberdeen 2018) and oral/poster presentations (GSA 2016, GES-17, EGU 2017; AGU 2017 and EGU 2018).
Start Year 2016
 
Description CZO Karst: Chinese Collaborators - Institutions 
Organisation Chinese Academy of Sciences
Country China 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Joint programme of research on the karst CZO (Puding, China) including joint planning, fieldwork, data discussions, academic publications, and IMPACT assessment.
Collaborator Contribution Joint programme of research on the karst CZO (Puding, China) including joint planning, fieldwork, data discussions, academic publications, and IMPACT assessment.
Impact Joint publications (Moore et al., 2017; Quine et al., 2017; Song et al., 2017; Ma et al., 2018, Li et al., 2018, Hao et al., 2019 ), workshops (CZO Karst sister projects, May 2017; CZO Guiyang, June 2017; Aberdeen 2018) and oral/poster presentations (GSA 2016, GES-17, EGU 2017; AGU 2017 and EGU 2018).
Start Year 2016
 
Description CZO Karst: Chinese Collaborators - Institutions 
Organisation Peking University
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Joint programme of research on the karst CZO (Puding, China) including joint planning, fieldwork, data discussions, academic publications, and IMPACT assessment.
Collaborator Contribution Joint programme of research on the karst CZO (Puding, China) including joint planning, fieldwork, data discussions, academic publications, and IMPACT assessment.
Impact Joint publications (Moore et al., 2017; Quine et al., 2017; Song et al., 2017; Ma et al., 2018, Li et al., 2018, Hao et al., 2019 ), workshops (CZO Karst sister projects, May 2017; CZO Guiyang, June 2017; Aberdeen 2018) and oral/poster presentations (GSA 2016, GES-17, EGU 2017; AGU 2017 and EGU 2018).
Start Year 2016
 
Description CZO Karst: Chinese Collaborators - Institutions 
Organisation Tianjin Normal University
PI Contribution Joint programme of research on the karst CZO (Puding, China) including joint planning, fieldwork, data discussions, academic publications, and IMPACT assessment.
Collaborator Contribution Joint programme of research on the karst CZO (Puding, China) including joint planning, fieldwork, data discussions, academic publications, and IMPACT assessment.
Impact Joint publications (Moore et al., 2017; Quine et al., 2017; Song et al., 2017; Ma et al., 2018, Li et al., 2018, Hao et al., 2019 ), workshops (CZO Karst sister projects, May 2017; CZO Guiyang, June 2017; Aberdeen 2018) and oral/poster presentations (GSA 2016, GES-17, EGU 2017; AGU 2017 and EGU 2018).
Start Year 2016
 
Description CZO Loess Plateau Chinese and UK collaborators 
Organisation Chinese Academy of Sciences
Department Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resource Research
PI Contribution Artificial radionuclides were deposited worldwide due to nuclear testing during the 1950s and early 60s. Caesium-137 and other fallout radionuclides have been used to track the last ~50 years of soil erosion and redistribution on a catchment scale. Traditionally, this method has involved coring, sub-sampling, and laboratory analyses using large HPGe detectors, which can be costly and time-consuming. This application and study tested a portable gamma spectrometer (PGS), allowing for in situ field measurements of 137Cs. Data on soil redistribution patterns could be accessed more rapidly, e.g. to inform conservation projects or to target areas for additional focus. We are currently reviewing the soil models to improve the estilation of soil erosion rates using this in field-based approach. Across the CZOs we are comparing portable gamma spectrometer outputs with lab. analyses, as well as providing each research group an estimation of erosion rates for experimental areas. We designed a programme of works across the four CZO, deployed our portable gamma spectrometer, collected soil cores and conducted the necessary lab determinations.
Collaborator Contribution Our Chinese partners have supported fieldwork and provided additional supporting data for assessments.
Impact Successful completed joint fieldwork in 2017, and we presented initial findings at AGU 2017 (poster presentation).
Start Year 2017
 
Description CZO Loess Plateau Chinese and UK collaborators 
Organisation Lancaster University
Department Lancaster Environment Centre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Artificial radionuclides were deposited worldwide due to nuclear testing during the 1950s and early 60s. Caesium-137 and other fallout radionuclides have been used to track the last ~50 years of soil erosion and redistribution on a catchment scale. Traditionally, this method has involved coring, sub-sampling, and laboratory analyses using large HPGe detectors, which can be costly and time-consuming. This application and study tested a portable gamma spectrometer (PGS), allowing for in situ field measurements of 137Cs. Data on soil redistribution patterns could be accessed more rapidly, e.g. to inform conservation projects or to target areas for additional focus. We are currently reviewing the soil models to improve the estilation of soil erosion rates using this in field-based approach. Across the CZOs we are comparing portable gamma spectrometer outputs with lab. analyses, as well as providing each research group an estimation of erosion rates for experimental areas. We designed a programme of works across the four CZO, deployed our portable gamma spectrometer, collected soil cores and conducted the necessary lab determinations.
Collaborator Contribution Our Chinese partners have supported fieldwork and provided additional supporting data for assessments.
Impact Successful completed joint fieldwork in 2017, and we presented initial findings at AGU 2017 (poster presentation).
Start Year 2017
 
Description CZO Loess Plateau Chinese and UK collaborators 
Organisation Rothamsted Research
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Artificial radionuclides were deposited worldwide due to nuclear testing during the 1950s and early 60s. Caesium-137 and other fallout radionuclides have been used to track the last ~50 years of soil erosion and redistribution on a catchment scale. Traditionally, this method has involved coring, sub-sampling, and laboratory analyses using large HPGe detectors, which can be costly and time-consuming. This application and study tested a portable gamma spectrometer (PGS), allowing for in situ field measurements of 137Cs. Data on soil redistribution patterns could be accessed more rapidly, e.g. to inform conservation projects or to target areas for additional focus. We are currently reviewing the soil models to improve the estilation of soil erosion rates using this in field-based approach. Across the CZOs we are comparing portable gamma spectrometer outputs with lab. analyses, as well as providing each research group an estimation of erosion rates for experimental areas. We designed a programme of works across the four CZO, deployed our portable gamma spectrometer, collected soil cores and conducted the necessary lab determinations.
Collaborator Contribution Our Chinese partners have supported fieldwork and provided additional supporting data for assessments.
Impact Successful completed joint fieldwork in 2017, and we presented initial findings at AGU 2017 (poster presentation).
Start Year 2017
 
Description CZO Peri-Urban Chinese and collaborators 
Organisation Chinese Academy of Sciences
Department Institute of Urban Environment
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Artificial radionuclides were deposited worldwide due to nuclear testing during the 1950s and early 60s. Caesium-137 and other fallout radionuclides have been used to track the last ~50 years of soil erosion and redistribution on a catchment scale. Traditionally, this method has involved coring, sub-sampling, and laboratory analyses using large HPGe detectors, which can be costly and time-consuming. This application and study tested a portable gamma spectrometer (PGS), allowing for in situ field measurements of 137Cs. Data on soil redistribution patterns could be accessed more rapidly, e.g. to inform conservation projects or to target areas for additional focus. We are currently reviewing the soil models to improve the estilation of soil erosion rates using this in field-based approach. Across the CZOs we are comparing portable gamma spectrometer outputs with lab. analyses, as well as providing each research group an estimation of erosion rates for experimental areas. We designed a programme of works across the four CZO, deployed our portable gamma spectrometer, collected soil cores and conducted the necessary lab determinations.
Collaborator Contribution Our Chinese partners have supported fieldwork and provided additional supporting data for assessments.
Impact Successful completed joint fieldwork in 2017, and we presented initial findings at AGU 2017 (poster presentation).
Start Year 2017
 
Description CZO Peri-Urban Chinese and collaborators 
Organisation University of Leeds
Department School of Earth and Environment
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Artificial radionuclides were deposited worldwide due to nuclear testing during the 1950s and early 60s. Caesium-137 and other fallout radionuclides have been used to track the last ~50 years of soil erosion and redistribution on a catchment scale. Traditionally, this method has involved coring, sub-sampling, and laboratory analyses using large HPGe detectors, which can be costly and time-consuming. This application and study tested a portable gamma spectrometer (PGS), allowing for in situ field measurements of 137Cs. Data on soil redistribution patterns could be accessed more rapidly, e.g. to inform conservation projects or to target areas for additional focus. We are currently reviewing the soil models to improve the estilation of soil erosion rates using this in field-based approach. Across the CZOs we are comparing portable gamma spectrometer outputs with lab. analyses, as well as providing each research group an estimation of erosion rates for experimental areas. We designed a programme of works across the four CZO, deployed our portable gamma spectrometer, collected soil cores and conducted the necessary lab determinations.
Collaborator Contribution Our Chinese partners have supported fieldwork and provided additional supporting data for assessments.
Impact Successful completed joint fieldwork in 2017, and we presented initial findings at AGU 2017 (poster presentation).
Start Year 2017
 
Description CZO Red Soil - Chinese and UK Collaborators 
Organisation Chinese Academy of Sciences
Department Institute of Soil Science
PI Contribution Artificial radionuclides were deposited worldwide due to nuclear testing during the 1950s and early 60s. Caesium-137 and other fallout radionuclides have been used to track the last ~50 years of soil erosion and redistribution on a catchment scale. Traditionally, this method has involved coring, sub-sampling, and laboratory analyses using large HPGe detectors, which can be costly and time-consuming. This application and study tested a portable gamma spectrometer (PGS), allowing for in situ field measurements of 137Cs. Data on soil redistribution patterns could be accessed more rapidly, e.g. to inform conservation projects or to target areas for additional focus. We are currently reviewing the soil models to improve the estilation of soil erosion rates using this in field-based approach. Across the CZOs we are comparing portable gamma spectrometer outputs with lab. analyses, as well as providing each research group an estimation of erosion rates for experimental areas. We designed a programme of works across the four CZO, deployed our portable gamma spectrometer, collected soil cores and conducted the necessary lab determinations.
Collaborator Contribution Our Chinese partners have supported fieldwork and provided additional supporting data for assessments.
Impact Successful completed joint fieldwork in 2017, and we presented initial findings at AGU 2017 (poster presentation).
Start Year 2017
 
Description CZO Red Soil - Chinese and UK Collaborators 
Organisation University of Aberdeen
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Artificial radionuclides were deposited worldwide due to nuclear testing during the 1950s and early 60s. Caesium-137 and other fallout radionuclides have been used to track the last ~50 years of soil erosion and redistribution on a catchment scale. Traditionally, this method has involved coring, sub-sampling, and laboratory analyses using large HPGe detectors, which can be costly and time-consuming. This application and study tested a portable gamma spectrometer (PGS), allowing for in situ field measurements of 137Cs. Data on soil redistribution patterns could be accessed more rapidly, e.g. to inform conservation projects or to target areas for additional focus. We are currently reviewing the soil models to improve the estilation of soil erosion rates using this in field-based approach. Across the CZOs we are comparing portable gamma spectrometer outputs with lab. analyses, as well as providing each research group an estimation of erosion rates for experimental areas. We designed a programme of works across the four CZO, deployed our portable gamma spectrometer, collected soil cores and conducted the necessary lab determinations.
Collaborator Contribution Our Chinese partners have supported fieldwork and provided additional supporting data for assessments.
Impact Successful completed joint fieldwork in 2017, and we presented initial findings at AGU 2017 (poster presentation).
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with Prof Wenping Yuan (Sun Yat-Sen University) through Royal Society Newton Advanced Fellowship 
Organisation Sun Yat-Sen University
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution As part of the SPECTRA project, we have used a field portable gamma spectrometer to measure 137Cs distributions at four Critical Zone Observatory Sites in China funded by NERC/Newton and NSFC. The sites are in the Karst landscapes of Guizhou, the Loess Plateau, peri-urban sites on the Yangtze delta, and the red soils of southern China (Sunjia). Soil samples collected at these sites will be analysed for SOC and 137Cs (for calibration). These data will complement those collected by Prof Yuan from black-soil sloping farmland in Northeast China and enable a more wide-ranging analysis of the entire dataset in 2018.
Collaborator Contribution Prof Yuan has conducted field experiments about the impacts of soil erosion on soil organic carbon and soil respiration in black-soil sloping farmland in Northeast China. These experiments aim to improve mechanistic understanding of soil organic carbon (SOC) redistribution dynamics in an eroding black-soil farmland landscape of Northeast China. Data were collected using the same methodology as in the SPECTRA project and are being used to assess the differences in the SOC pool composition and potential respiration along a geomorphic gradient through soil organic matter fractionation and incubation experiments. Prof. Yuan's group are also developing a new modelling approach to assess the impacts of soil erosion on the ecosystem carbon cycle. They have coupled the soil erosion model (ANSWERS) with their the ecosystem carbon model (IBIS) and to create ANSWERS that can simulate soil and deposition rate, lateral carbon movement and the erosion-induced changes in soil carbon content and vertical distribution at fine time step and spatial resolution. Evaluation of IBIS-ANSWERS at two South China watersheds revealed that our model could reasonably represent the magnitude and spatial pattern of soil erosion rate as well as the seasonal patterns of sediment discharge rate at different locations in Min River and Pearl River watersheds. Soil erosion resulted in significant decrease in soil carbon pools at net erosion sites, but obvious increase in carbon pools at net deposition sites. From 2000 to 2015, soil erosion at Pearl river watershed may have induced a change in land-atmosphere carbon flux ranging from a land carbon sink of 4.32% of total eroded carbon to a source of 5.35% of eroded carbon. This work by Prof Yuan's group is highly complimentary to the research currently being undertaken in work package 4 of the SPECTRA project.
Impact No published outputs have been created yet.
Start Year 2017
 
Description SPECTRA team 
Organisation University of Exeter
Department Department of Geography
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Sample sharing, data sharing, joint logistics coordination, shared interactions with Chinese collaborators, joint publications, lab sharing
Collaborator Contribution Sample sharing, data sharing, joint logistics coordination, shared interactions with Chinese collaborators, joint publications, lab sharing
Impact Multidisciplinary - Earth Sciences, Geography, Chemistry. Outputs: Quine et al. 2017; Moore et al. 2017; presentations at GES-11, AGU, EGU, Biogeomon, GSA
Start Year 2016
 
Description AGU 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact AGU poster - Nicole Sanderson. Poster was to highlight the use of a novel portable technique in detecting caesium-137. Sparked development discussion, with particular emphasis on the soil profile development model.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description CZO Aberdeen conference - 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Series of talks/posters from the SPECTRA team to an international audidence, which lead to questions/discussion thereafter:

- Production and retention of mineral nutrients in soils of the agricultural karst critical zone in southwest China
A.M. Lawal, H.L. Buss, O.W. Moore, S.M. Green, C. Tu, K. Xing
- Contributions of Soil Microbial Residual Carbon to Soil Organic Carbon Densities During Vegetation Recovery in Karst Ecosystems of Southwest China
Zhiming Guo, Xinyu Zhang, Sophie M. Green, Jennifer A. J. Dungait, Xuefa Wen, Timothy A. Quine
- Soil phosphorus availability strongly controls microbial denitrification during vegetative recovery in the southwest China Karst CZO
Dandan Li, Xinyu Zhang, Sophie M. Green, Jennifer A.J. Dungait, Xuefa Wen, Timothy A. Quine, Qiubing Wang
- Effect of bedrock geochemistry on karst vegetation composition and productivity
Hongyan Liu, Zihan Jiang, Jingyu Dai, Hongya Wang, Jian Peng, Jeroen Meersmans, Sophie M. Green, Timothy Quine, Xiuchen Wu, Zhaoliang Song
- Urbanization, food security and the Grain for Green Policy - China's poverty challenge
Jian Peng, Sijing Qiu, Jeroen Meersmans, Timothy A Quine, Sophie M Green, Hongyan Liu, Yanxu Liu, Jiansheng Wu, Yanglin Wang
- Effects on nitrogen and phosphorus availability differs between plants with arbuscular or ectomycorrhizal associations in primary karst forest in the southwest China CZO
Yang Yang, Xinyu Zhang, Xuefa Wen, Dandan Li, Sophie M. Green, Jennifer A.J. Dungait, Timothy A. Quine
- A soil microbe's eye-view of karst ecosystem recovery under the "Grain for Green Programme" in the Puding Karst Critical Zone Observatory
Sophie M. Green, Xinyu Zhang, Jennifer A. J. Dungait, Dandan Li, Yang Yang, Zhiming Guo, Simon J. Hawkes, Xianwei Song, Yang Gao, Zhaoliang Song, Nianpeng He, Hongyan Liu, Iain Hartley, Richard P. Evershed, Penny Johnes, Xufua Wen, Timothy A. Quine.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description CZO cross programme workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Attended by Tim Quine, Sophie Green, Heather Buss and Jenni Dungait.Cross-programme update by all NERC-Newton funded CZO projects. Oral presentations and further discussions held across a two-day period.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Chenqi Agricultural Group Discussions 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A discussion forum was helf with local farmers from the study site to understand the social-economic dynamics and pressures on agricultural practices within Chenqi.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Cross CZO capital bid collaborations 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Working group to discuss and utilize the CZO portable gamma spectrometer and geophysical survey equipment (purchased through the NERC-NEWTON capital bid programme across) all projects within the UK-China CZO programme. Involves Tim Quine, Andy Binley (Lancaster University), Nicole Sanderson and Sophie Green.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
 
Description Cross-CZO project meetings 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Meetings held between Quine and Waldron CZO project teams (Karst - soil & hydrology/water quality) to discuss and exchange results.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description EGU 2017 - oral presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Scientific conference oral presentation entitled: "Soil microbial community as a proxy for the ecological service condition in karst soils of SW China". Sparked discussions with other Karst delegates interested in karst soil processes.

Abstract:
Karst is a key landscape covering extensive areas of Southwest China that has undergone rapid intensive land use change and degradation over the last 50 years. Clear evidence of environmental degradation and its damaging consequences for the reduction of intrinsic value of the land for local human populations has led to an increasing focus on landscape rehabilitation. This has included unmanaged abandonment and attempts to re-vegetate denuded surfaces. However, this has achieved limited success and there is a clear need to develop restoration strategies underpinned by robust quantitative and mechanistic understanding of critical zone (CZ) functioning. Thus, a karst Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) was established in June 2016 in Chenqi, Guizhou Province, along a gradient through three levels of human perturbed landscapes: sloping farmland; recovery phase 1 (recently abandoned, within 5 years); and, recovery phase 2 (secondary forest, abandoned > 5 years).

We hypothesise that there is a tipping point along the degradation gradient beyond which key biological controls over CZ function are lost, resulting in declining nutrient cycling and rock weathering rates, and increased soil erosion rates. This paper will present preliminary data from the application of the CZ approach using space-for-time substitution. We characterised soil microbial community dynamics along the degradation gradient using geochemical biomarkers and soil properties measured in soil profiles (<1.5 m depth; n = 3) at three slope positions at contrasting topographical aspects around the Chenqi catchment. We integrate measurements of mycorrhizal fungi and free-living soil microbes, and pools of soil carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), with estimations of soil erosion rates using radionuclide 137Cs/Pb210, within the karst ecosystem to evaluate the status of key ecosystem functions (e.g. nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, soil stabilisation).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description EGU 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact International talk given at EGU 2018 entitled: "Soil organic matter dynamics during vegetation restoration in nutrient-limited karst ecosystems in southwest China" authored by Zhiming Guo, Xinyu Zhang, Sophie Green, Jennifer Dungait, Xuefa Wen.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Fieldwork and further discussions with the local community in Puding County, Guizhou 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Main intention to undertake fieldwork and host discussions regarding scientific output and practical applications to the local farming community. One of the main outcomes is maintaining the open channels with the local community in terms of what we have observed to date.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description GES-11 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Research poster at GES-11 conference. Sparked substantial discussions about the scientific results and overall project aims and goals. Moore et al., 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description GES-17 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Geochemistry of the Earth's Surface (GES-11) conference. Attended by Tim Quine, Sophie Green, Heather Buss and Jenni Dungait. Keynote presentation given by Tim Quine and poster led by Heather Buss. Variety of discussions/debate held during the week long conference.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description GSA 2016 Oral presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact INVITED TALK AT THE GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA GENERAL MEETING (SEPTEMBER 2016)
SOIL PROCESSES AND ECOLOGICAL SERVICES IN THE KARST CRITICAL ZONE OF SW CHINA

GREEN, Sophie M.1, DUNGAIT, Jenni2, ZHANG, Xinyu3, BARROWS, Tim1, BUSS, Heather L.4, LIU, Taoze5, HARTLEY, Iain1, SONG, Zhaoliang6, WEN, Xuefa3, LIU, Hongyan7, TU, Chenglong5, EVERSHED, Richard P.8, JOHNES, Penny J.9, MEERSMANS, Jeroen1, GUO, Dali3 and QUINE, Tim1, (1)Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Amory Building, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4RJ, United Kingdom, (2)Rothamsted Research - North Wyke, Okehampton, EX20 2SB, United Kingdom, (3)Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100101, China, (4)School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Wills Memorial Building, Queen's Rd, Bristol, BS8 1RJ, United Kingdom, (5)State Key Lab of Environmental Geochemistry, Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guiyang, 550002, China, (6)Institute of the Surface-Earth System Science Research, Tianjin University, Tianjin, 300072, China, (7)College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, 100871, China, (8)School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, Cantock's Close, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1TS, United Kingdom, (9)School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, University Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1SS,, United Kingdom, s.green2@exeter.ac.uk

Covering extensive parts of Southwest China, karst is a key landscape that is exceptional because rapid land use change has caused severe ecosystem degradation within only the last 50 years. This environmental degradation comprises rocky desertification, and is comparable to that caused by the better known extreme rates of erosion of the sandy loess soils in North China. Therefore, establishment of a critical zone observatory (CZO) in the karst landscape of SW China along a dynamic perturbation gradient in varying states of transition between states of rocky desertification to natural forest would fill a significant gap in the current database and research effort. Furthermore, there is a socioeconomic imperative to establish a CZO in the karst landscapes of SW China. The population of 36 million are amongst the poorest in China, with regional GDP less than 50% of the national average, and sustainable solutions to land management, potentially including abandonment and economic compensation, will be integral to lifting the population out of poverty.

The CZO was established in June 2016. We investigate the integrated geophysical-geochemical-ecological and social responses of the CZO to past perturbations, along a gradient from undisturbed natural vegetation through human perturbed landscapes at 3 levels of use - sloping farmland, recovery phase 1 (recently abandoned, within 5 years) and recovery phase 2 (secondary forest, abandoned > 5 years). We integrate measurements of: (1) plant, soil, mycorrhizal fungi and free-living soil microbes; (2) rates of rock weathering, elemental release and soil formation processes; (3) rates of erosion and soil redistribution; and, (4) pools and fluxes of soil organic C (SOC), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) within the karst ecosystem. Through explicit consideration of plant-microbe-soil and plant-microbe-rock interactions, we will identify the biological controls on nutrient availability, soil formation and loss in the CZO. This talk encompasses the early stages of the project and presents some preliminary results.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2016AM/webprogram/Paper279592.html
 
Description NERC-NSFC CZO Programme Launch Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact NERC-NSFC CZO Programme Launch Workshop:
'Using Critical Zone science to understand sustaining the ecosystem services of soil and water': Two-day workshop.
The workshop programme:
1. Introduce the funded project teams to each other and to the NERC and NSFC programme teams;
2. Elaborate the objectives of international development and impact outcomes that will be met by the projects;
3. Identify programme integration goals, methods and timetable of activities including dissemination, outreach and data sharing and management;
4. Present the national infrastructures and joint UK-China strengths in CZ science; and
5. Define the key steps and timetable for the research programme impact to support sustainable development in China and long-term strategy for joint CZ research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Nanjing 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact CZO programme meeting including stratgetic approach for Phase 2 and update of all projects (i.e., Spectra, Karst, Red Soil, Peri-urban and Loess Plateau). Main outcome funding bid for Phase 2 (IMPACT).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description UK-China Karst project start up 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Formal Uk-China project start up meeting to discuss the project and field site selection (includes PIs/CO-I's).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description UK-China team meetings 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact UK-China workpage update meeting to discuss fieldwork, results and fieldwork planned.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017,2018