Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Plant and Soil Science

First Advisor

Klubek, Brian

Second Advisor

Indorante, Samuel


Soil organic carbon (SOC) is important both for its influence on agricultural productivity and for its role in the carbon cycle. The distribution of SOC is highly variable at the field scale both horizontally and vertically; a portion of SOC's variability can be attributed to differences in vegetative cover and to slope position. This study characterized and compared SOC concentration to a depth of 2 meters across 6 loess-veneered watersheds in the central United States. Data were collected as part of the Shawnee Hills Loess Catenas project, a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA Forest Service, Purdue University, University of Kentucky, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and Illinois State Geological Survey, among others. The study consists of pairs of sites, one under forest cover and one grass cover, located in southern Illinois, southern Indiana, and western Kentucky. Bulk density and SOC data were calculated from genetic horizon samples taken from soil pits laid out as transects along slopes at each site. SOC concentrations were significantly higher under forest cover. Footslopes and toeslopes had significantly higher SOC densities than summits, shoulders, and backslopes. A three-part exponential decay model was the best fit for the relationship between SOC density and depth from the surface. The comparisons and models may be used to more accurately predict SOC concentration and carbon pool size on similar loess-veneered landscapes in the central United States.




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