We use the CREEP process-response model to simulate soil organic carbon accumulation in an undisturbed prairie site in Iowa. Our primary objectives are to identify spatial patterns of carbon accumulation, and explore the effect of erosion on basin-scale C accumulation. Our results point to two general findings. First, redistribution of soil carbon by erosion results in a net increase in basin-wide carbon storage relative to a noneroding environment. Landscape-average mean residence times are increased in an eroding landscape owing to the burial/preservation of otherwise labile C. Second, field observations taken along a slope transect may overlook significant intraslope variations in carbon accumulation. Spatial patterns of modeled deep C accumulation are complex. While surface carbon with its relatively short equilibration time is predictable from surface properties, deep carbon is strongly influenced by the landscape's geomorphic and climatic history, resulting in wide spatial variability. Convergence and divergence associated with upland swales and interfluves result in bimodal carbon distributions in upper and mid slopes; variability in carbon storage within modeled mid slopes was as high as simulated differences between erosional shoulders and depositional valley bottoms. The bimodality of mid-slope C variability in the model suggests that a three-dimensional sampling strategy is preferable over the traditional two-dimensional analog or "catena" approach. Copyright 2006 by the American Geophysical Union.
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Geomorphic control of landscape carbon accumulation