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  1. Abstract

    Soil organic carbon (SOC) regulates terrestrial ecosystem functioning, provides diverse energy sources for soil microorganisms, governs soil structure, and regulates the availability of organically bound nutrients. Investigators in increasingly diverse disciplines recognize how quantifying SOC attributes can provide insight about ecological states and processes. Today, multiple research networks collect and provide SOC data, and robust, new technologies are available for managing, sharing, and analyzing large data sets. We advocate that the scientific community capitalize on these developments to augment SOC data sets via standardized protocols. We describe why such efforts are important and the breadth of disciplines for which it will be helpful, and outline a tiered approach for standardized sampling of SOC and ancillary variables that ranges from simple to more complex. We target scientists ranging from those with little to no background in soil science to those with more soil‐related expertise, and offer examples of the ways in which the resulting data can be organized, shared, and discoverable.

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  2. Abstract

    Soil stores approximately twice as much carbon as the atmosphere and fluctuations in the size of the soil carbon pool directly influence climate conditions. We used the Nutrient Network global change experiment to examine how anthropogenic nutrient enrichment might influence grassland soil carbon storage at a global scale. In isolation, enrichment of nitrogen and phosphorous had minimal impacts on soil carbon storage. However, when these nutrients were added in combination with potassium and micronutrients, soil carbon stocks changed considerably, with an average increase of 0.04 KgCm−2 year−1(standard deviation 0.18 KgCm−2 year−1). These effects did not correlate with changes in primary productivity, suggesting that soil carbon decomposition may have been restricted. Although nutrient enrichment caused soil carbon gains most dry, sandy regions, considerable absolute losses of soil carbon may occur in high‐latitude regions that store the majority of the world's soil carbon. These mechanistic insights into the sensitivity of grassland carbon stocks to nutrient enrichment can facilitate biochemical modelling efforts to project carbon cycling under future climate scenarios.

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