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Long-term assessment of soil and water conservation measures (Fanya-juu terraces) on soil organic matter in South Eastern Kenya

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  • Gustavo Saiz
  • Fredrick M. Wandera
  • David E. Pelster
  • Wilson Ngetich
  • John R. Okalebo
  • Mariana C. Rufino
  • Klaus Butterbach-Bahl
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>15/07/2016
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)1-9
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date8/04/16
<mark>Original language</mark>English


A comprehensive assessment of soil organic matter (SOM) dynamics in semi-arid agrosystems implementing soil and water conservation (SWC) measures is still lacking despite their extent, ecological and economic significance. Therefore, we assessed the long-term impact of a commonly used SWC technique (Fanya-juu terracing) on SOM-related properties in South Eastern Kenya. A soil sampling campaign was conducted in a replicated stratified random manner on three land uses that had been continuously managed for over 30 years. Samples were analyzed for organic carbon and nitrogen contents, delta C-13, delta N-15 pH and texture. Compared to sites implementing conventional agriculture, the establishment of SWC structures in this erosion-prone landscape resulted in the recovery of SOM levels comparable to those observed in neighboring semi-natural ecosystems. Sites under conventional agriculture practices contained 20 Mg C ha(-1) (0.85 m), while sites with SWC measures and those hosting semi-natural vegetation stored above a third more. There were significant differences in soil C/N ratios as well as in delta C-13 and delta N-15 values between SWC cultivation practices classified according to the presence or absence of trees. The presence of woody vegetation in sites with SWC structures had a strong impact on the spatial variability of SOM-related properties. There was also a significant negative relationship between delta N-15 values and C/N ratios across the different land uses. Our findings indicate the existence of contrasting SOM dynamics caused by vegetation-related effects, and provide suggestions for enhancing SOM storage in agricultural sites implementing SWC measures. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.