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www.elsevier.com/locate/apgeochem

grassland of Ireland

David McGratha, Chaosheng Zhangb,*

a

Teagasc, Johnstown Castle Research Centre, Wexford, Ireland

b

Department of Geography and Environmental Change Institute, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

Editorial handling by R. Fuge

Abstract

Soil organic C (SOC) concentrations in topsoil samples taken at 678 sites in the grassland of Ireland were investi-

gated using statistics and geostatistics. SOC concentrations (WalkleyBlack method) follow a lognormal distribution,

with a median and geometric mean of 5.0%, and an arithmetic mean of 5.3%. Statistically signicant (P< 0.01) posi-

tive correlation between SOC and silt-plus-clay, and negative correlation between SOC and sand were observed, with

lower correlation (P=0.17) between SOC and pH. Lower SOC concentrations were associated with higher percentages

of land in tillage. In order to obtain a robust measurement of spatial structure, spatial outliers were detected, and

subsequently eliminated, using the local Morans I index. The spatial distribution of SOC concentrations based on

kriging interpolation showed coherent spatial patterns, with the highest values in the western coastal area, and rela-

tively low values in the inland and southeastern coastal areas; soils at higher elevation were also found to contain

higher SOC concentrations. These patterns are consistent with the distribution of rainfall within the country.

# 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

needs to be established and this is addressed here.

Soils play an important role in global C cycling and Statistics and geostatistics have been used to study the

global warming. The global soil organic C (SOC) pool is relationships between SOC and these factors, and to

estimated at 1500 Pg (Eswaran et al., 1995; Batjes, quantify spatial distribution patterns and changes in SOC

1996), which is roughly equivalent to the sum of the (e.g., Van Meirvenne et al., 1996; Saldana et al., 1998;

atmospheric pool of 750 Pg and the biotic pool of 600 Chevallier et al., 2000; Frogbrook and Oliver, 2001).

Pg (Schimel, 1995; Houghton, 1995; Lal, 2002). Geostatistics is based on the theory of a regionalized

SOC levels are known to be inuenced by a large variable (Matheron, 1963), i.e., one which is distributed

number of factors, many of which are mutually inter- in space with spatial coordinates. The concepts of geosta-

active. These include: parent material, soil texture, cli- tistics are explained in several textbooks (e.g.: Cressie,

mate, soil pH, landuse, management, topography and 1993; Goovaerts, P., 1997; Clark and Harper, 2000; Web-

drainage. Manipulation of some of these factors, espe- ster and Oliver, 2001). In the past 20 a, geostatistics has

cially management-related ones, may be used to increase become widely applied in soil sciences, and has provided

C sequestration in soils and thus mitigate national cli- advanced methodologies to quantify the spatial features

mate-change commitments (Smith et al., 2000). However, of soil parameters and carry out spatial interpolation

(Burgess and Webster, 1980; Webster, 1994; Dobermann

et al., 1997; Stein et al., 1997; Zhang et al., 1998, 2000).

* Corresponding author. Fax: +353-91-525700. Ireland is a country dominated by grassland, and SOC

E-mail addresses: dmcgrath@johnstown.teagasc.ie has primarily been investigated in these soils (Brogan,

(D. McGrath), chaosheng.zhang@nuigalway.ie (C. Zhang). 1966; McGrath, 1980; McGrath and McCormack,

0883-2927/03/$ - see front matter # 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

doi:10.1016/S0883-2927(03)00045-3

1630 D. McGrath, C. Zhang / Applied Geochemistry 18 (2003) 16291639

1999). The data set from Brogan (1966) was obtained 1010 km2 sector of the national grid and sampled. Where

via a national soil survey, undertaken in 1964, which land cover by lake, forest, bog and mountain was less than

covers most parts of the Republic of Ireland. Despite 25%, 2 sites were selected; when greater than 75%, no

the time-lag since the data was generated, it was con- sample was taken. The 678 samples so obtained represent

sidered to still provide a valuable base against which approximately 50% of the total that could be accom-

subsequent and future measurements could be eval- modated at a frequency of 2 samples for each 1010 km2

uated. For this reason it has been used in this study. sector. The shortfall in the number of samples collected

can be accounted for by the low sampling-density in some

areas, e.g., in the west of the country, and in the Wicklow

2. Methods south Dublin areas which, though largely mountainous,

also included upland grassland sites. However, such sites

2.1. Sampling and analysis of SOC were often peaty with SOC in excess of 18% and were

excluded under the sampling protocol.

About 59% of the land surface of the Republic of The locations of the grassland sampling sites are

Ireland was recorded as being devoted to permanent pas- shown in Fig. 1. SOC concentrations were determined

ture in 1964 (CSO, 1965). Soils (010 cm depth) were sam- by the Walkley-Black (Cwb) method (Metson, 1956).

pled from under permanent pasture (Brogan, 1966). A Sand, silt-plus-clay contents and pH values were also

maximum of 2 sites were selected at random from each determined (Brogan, 1966).

D. McGrath, C. Zhang / Applied Geochemistry 18 (2003) 16291639 1631

Geostatistics (Matheron, 1963; Cressie, 1993; Webster Outliers, and especially spatial outliers, in the data set

and Oliver, 2001) uses the semi-variogram to measure can make the variogram exhibit erratic behaviour. Spa-

the spatial variability of a regionalized variable, and tial outliers are those values that are obviously dierent

provides the input parameters for the spatial interpola- from the values of their surrounding locations (Lalor

tion method of kriging, a term introduced by Matheron and Zhang, 2001). In this work, such outliers are iden-

in 1960 in honour of the work of the South African tied using an index, local Morans I (Anselin, 1995;

mining engineer D.G. Krige (1951). It relates the semi- Getis and Ord, 1996):

variogram, half the expected squared dierence between

zi z X

n

paired data values z(x) and z(x+h) to the distance, lag Ii 2

wij zj z 5

j1; j6i

h, by which locations are separated:

1

h E zx zx h2 1 where zi is the value of the variable z at location i; z is

2

the average value of z with the sample number of n; zj is

For discrete sampling sites, such as those that had the value of the variable z at all the other locations

been sampled in this study, the function is written in the (where j6i); 2 is the variance of variable z; and wij is a

form: weight, dened as the inverse of the distance dij between

locations i and j:

1 X

Nh

h zxi zxi h2 2 1

2Nh i1 wij 6

dij

where z(xi) is the value of the variable Z at location of Local Morans I can be standardised so that its sig-

xi, h is the lag, and N(h) is the number of pairs of nicance level can be tested based on the normal dis-

sample points separated by h. For irregular sampling, it tribution (Levine, 1999), when the distribution of the

is rare for the distance between the sample pairs to be raw data set is not too skewed. It should be noted that

exactly equal to h. Therefore, h is often represented by a when the raw data are too skewed, the normal approx-

distance interval. imation of the local Morans I may fail. When the stan-

A variogram plot is obtained by calculating values of dardized value of local Morans I is higher than the

the variogram at dierent lags. These values are then critical value of 1.96, it is concluded (P=0.05) that the

usually tted with a theoretical model: spherical, expo- sample under test is clustered with (or similar to) the

nential, or Gaussian (See Matheron, 1963; Cressie, surrounding samples; if lower than 1.96, it is con-

1993; or Webster and Oliver, 2001 for discussion). The cluded (P=0.05) that the sample under test is sig-

models provide information about the spatial structure nicantly dierent from the surrounding samples and is

as well as the input parameters for the kriging inter- considered to be a spatial outlier.

polation.

Kriging is regarded as an optimal spatial inter- 2.4. Data treatment with computer software

polation method, which is a type of weighted moving

average: The data sets were analysed using dierent software

X

n packages. The descriptive statistical parameters were

z^x0 li zxi 3 calculated with Microsoft Excel# and SPSS# (version

i1 10.0). Maps were produced with GIS software Arc-

View# (version 3.2) and its extension of Spatial Ana-

where z^x0 is the value to be estimated at the location lyst# (version 2). The geostatistics analyses were carried

of x0; z(xi) is the known value at the sampling site xi, out with GS+# (version 5.3) (Robertson, 2000) and

and li is a weight. There are n sites within the search Idrisi 32# (Release 2), and the local Morans I index was

neighbourhood around x0 used for the estimation, and calculated with CrimeStat# (version 1.0) (Levine, 1999).

the magnitude of n will depend on the size of the moving

search window and user denition. Kriging diers from

other methods (such as inverse distance weighted), in 3. Descriptive statistics

that the weight function li is no longer arbitrary, being

calculated from the parameters of the tted variogram 3.1. Probability distribution

model under the conditions of unbiasedness and mini-

mized estimation variance for the interpolation. Thus, Histograms of SOC concentrations determined by the

kriging is regarded as a best linear unbiased estimation WalkleyBlack method are shown in Fig. 2. That for the

(BLUE). raw data set has a long tail towards higher concentrations,

1632 D. McGrath, C. Zhang / Applied Geochemistry 18 (2003) 16291639

Fig. 2. Histograms of Cwb concentrations in soils of Ireland (n=678): (a) raw data; (b) logarithmically transformed data.

whereas that for the logarithmically-transformed dataset 5.0%. Due to the lognormal feature of Cwb, the geo-

can be satisfactorily modelled by a normal distribution. metric mean and median are recommended as its repre-

Table 1 shows the quantitative parameters of the sentative mean value, while the arithmetic mean

probability distribution and signicance level of the (average) should be discarded for this variable.

KolmogorovSmirnov test for conformance to a normal

distribution for the variables. The probability distribu- 3.3. Relationships between SOC and other factors

tion of Cwb is positively skewed and has a sharp peak

(positive kurtoses). The log-transformed data show Pearson (linear) correlation coecients between the 4

rather small skewnesses and kurtoses, and pass the KS variables were calculated. These are given in Table 3,

normality test at a signicance level of higher than 0.05. together with corresponding signicance levels.

On the other hand, contents of sand and silt-plus-clay

follow a normal distribution, and log-transformation

Table 2

makes the t to a normal distribution worse. pH values Basic statistic parameters of SOC concentrations and other

cannot pass either the normal or lognormal tests. How- related variables (%, except pH, n=678)

ever, its skewness and kurtosis are rather small. There-

fore, the log-transformed data sets of Cwb, and the raw Statistics Cwb Sand Silt+clay pH

data sets of sand, silt-plus-clay and pH were used for the Min 2.0 8 8 4.3

following multivariate analyses. 5% 3.0 21 36 5.1

25% 4.0 31 48 5.5

3.2. Mean values for SOC

Median 5.0 37 55 5.8

75% 6.1 44 63 6.2

Percentiles and commonly used estimators of location 95% 9.1 56 71 7.0

and spread were calculated (Table 2). The range of Cwb

varies from 2.0 to 17.8%, with the arithmetic mean of Max 17.8 87 88 7.8

5.3%. Both the geometric mean and median of Cwb are Average 5.3 37.7 54.9 5.9

GeoMean 5.0 36.1 53.7 5.8

Stdev 1.9 10.5 10.7 0.6

Table 1

Shape parameters of the probability distributions and sig-

nicance level of KolmogorovSmirnov test (KS p) (n=678)

Table 3

Statistics Cwb Sand Silt+clay pH Correlation coecients (lower-left side) and their signicance

levels (upper-right side) (n=678)

Raw data Skewness 1.66 0.32 0.28 0.70

Kurtosis 4.77 0.65 0.60 0.42 LnCwb Sand Silt+clay pH

KS p 0.00 0.17 0.73 0.00

LnCwb 0.00 0.00 0.17

Log-transformed Skewness 0.36 0.82 1.72 0.43 Sand 0.43 0.00 0.00

data Kurtosis 0.42 1.76 8.92 0.08 Silt+clay 0.22 0.91 0.00

KS p 0.11 0.01 0.01 0.00 pH 0.05 0.14 0.13

D. McGrath, C. Zhang / Applied Geochemistry 18 (2003) 16291639 1633

and negative correlation between SOC and sand were Results of post hoc tests in ANOVA with Duncans method

also conrmed. It should be mentioned that the two (with mean values of LnCwb in each elevation group)

variables of sand and silt-plus-clay sum up to almost

Elevation group (m) n S.D. Subset 1 Subset 2

100%, which forms a constant sum proportion. In this

case, the strong negative correlation between the two 0 50 0.365 1.557

variables is expected. The correlation between SOC and 50 171 0.306 1.559

pH is less pronounced. The causative relationship 100 301 0.340 1.622 1.622

between SOC and pH is complex, with SOC being a 150 156 0.304 1.675

progenitor of carbonic acid which then contributes to Signicance level 0.158 0.221

inhibiting organic matter degradation by soil micro-

organisms.

To reveal the relationship between SOC concen- shown that the variances between the groups of the data

trations and elevation of the sampling sites, the GIS set are homogenous at the signicance level of 0.46, and

software ArcView# was used to assign the samples to 4 thus Duncans test can be applied. The 4 groups of

elevation groups: 0 ( < 25), 50 (2574), 100 (75124), and samples can be separated into 2 subsets. The rst subset

150 (> 124) m, based on which contour line the sampling contains samples within the elevation groups of 0, 50,

location is close to. The box-plot (Fig. 3) shows the dif- and 100 m; while the second subset consists of the 100

ference of SOC concentrations among these groups. and 150 m elevation groups. The dierences within

In each box-plot, the lower boundary of the box either subset are not statistically signicant, at the 0.05

shows the 25th percentile, and the upper boundary level, with signicance levels of 0.158 and 0.221, respec-

shows the 75th percentile. The whiskers are lines that tively. However, the dierence between the subsets is

extend from the box to the highest and lowest values, signicant at the level of 0.008 (with an F-value of

excluding outliers (here dened as the values that are out- 4.013). It can be concluded that statistically samples at

side 1.5 box lengths from the upper and lower edges of the the elevation group of 150 m have the highest SOC

box). The line across the box indicates the median. This concentrations in this study. In explanation, it can be

plot shows that the SOC concentrations in the 0 (<24) m assumed that high elevation tends to result in increased

and 50 (2574) m elevation groups are the lowest, and precipitation and decreased temperature; both of these

those in the 150 (> 124) m group are slightly higher. environmental factors tend to favour accumulation of

To better quantify the dierences among the elevation humus (Jenny, 1980), and thus of SOC.

groups, analysis of variance (ANOVA) was applied. The Agricultural activities, especially tillage, play an

results show that the observed dierences are signicant important role on SOC concentrations. The proportion

at the level of 0.05. Further analysis of the post hoc test of agricultural land in tillage for each county in Ireland

with Duncans test (Duncan, 1955) was carried out, and in 1964 was calculated based on data from the report of

the results are shown in Table 4. The Kolmogorov Central Statistics Oce, Ireland (CSO, 1965). The aver-

Smirnov test has shown that all the groups have passed age values of Cwb in each county were also calculated. A

the test for normality (P> 0.05). The Levene test has scatter plot of mean Cwb as a proportion of land in til-

lage shows a decreasing trend (Fig. 4). The correlation

coecient is 0.632, which is highly signicant

(P< 0.001).

Fig. 3. Box-plot of SOC in dierent elevation groups (n=50, Fig. 4. Average SOC concentrations in each county as a func-

171, 301, 156 respectively). tion of proportion of agricultural land in tillage (n=27).

1634 D. McGrath, C. Zhang / Applied Geochemistry 18 (2003) 16291639

Fig. 5. SOC (Cwb) distribution in soils of Ireland and location of spatial outliers.

land of Ireland is shown in Fig. 5.

Some possible spatial patterns are identiable on this

map. Western Ireland and the north-eastern part have

relatively high SOC concentrations, while the south-

eastern part and north-western part generally have

lower concentrations of SOC. However, it can be seen

that some locations with high values have points with

low values nearby; in some areas of low values, there are

also some points with high values. This suggests the

presence of spatial outliers which need to be eliminated

prior to estimation of the spatial variogram. Fig. 6. Variogram surface of LnCwb.

D. McGrath, C. Zhang / Applied Geochemistry 18 (2003) 16291639 1635

Fig. 7. Isotropic variogram model of LnCwb: (a) spatial outliers excluded (n=639, exponential model: C0=0.05; C0+C=0.11; a=40

km); (b) all samples (n=678).

As described above, in order to avoid introducing of the samples. Some outliers with abnormally lower

bias, spatial outliers were detected using standardized values than the majority of the samples occur in the

local Morans I (Levine, 1999); Samples with values western part, and two samples in the north-eastern

lower than 1.96 were dened as spatial outliers. The part.

calculation was based on the log-transformed Cwb data In order to obtain a robust variogram, the spatial

set. Altogether, 39 spatial outliers were detected (Fig. 5). outliers were excluded in the variogram calculation.

In the south-eastern part of the region, there are some However, all values, including the detected spatial out-

outliers with abnormally higher values than the majority liers, were included in the kriging calculation,

Fig. 8. Cross validation results showing the dierences between the estimated and actual values.

1636 D. McGrath, C. Zhang / Applied Geochemistry 18 (2003) 16291639

4.2. Spatial structure of SOC The range of 40 km in the model implies that the large-

scale spatial autocorrelation may extend to the eective

The variogram surface of LnCwb is illustrated in range of 120 km. Hence the present sampling density is

Fig. 6. sucient to reveal general patterns but short-range

It can be seen that the variogram is broadly isotropic, variations can only be disclosed by sampling at a higher

with the lowest values located in the centre, and it spatial density. The optimum sampling-scale for SOC in

increases in all the directions with the increase of lag. Irish soils is not known but it will be a compromise

Therefore, the experimental isotropic variogram for between what is most eective and what is feasible.

LnCwb was calculated (Fig. 7). For comparison, the Clearly the mean sampling-interval used here, ca. 7 km,

variogram for all samples (spatial outliers included) is is too great. Van Meirvenne et al. (1996) found in an

also shown in Fig. 7. investigation in Belgium that most of the change occur-

The experimental variogram has been tted with an red within about 4 km, so that the optimum sampling

exponential model. There is a signicant nugget eect of scale is almost certainly less than this.

0.05, which accounts for 45% of the total sill of 0.11. When compared with the variogram for all samples,

This shows that the small-scale variances are quite signicant improvement of the variogram is observed

strong. In this study, only grassland soils had been for the samples with the spatial outliers excluded. The

sampled. It is expected that the small-scale variances variogram for all samples is close to a nugget eect,

would be even stronger if all types of soils were sampled. which is mainly attributed to these spatial outliers.

D. McGrath, C. Zhang / Applied Geochemistry 18 (2003) 16291639 1637

4.3. Spatial distribution of SOC concentrations actual values regardless of sign) of LnCwb is 11.9%, and

the average of relative absolute errors is 15.6%. When

The parameters of the exponential model were used the data are back-transformed to Cwb, the median and

for kriging to produce the spatial distribution map of average value of the relative absolute errors are 18.8 and

SOC concentrations in soils of Ireland. A search region 24.2% respectively.

of 32 nearest-neighbours was applied in order to oset For the spatial interpolation, a cell size of 500500 m

the relatively high nugget eect. To test the eectiveness was chosen to divide the study area into a grid system

of the model, cross validation (i.e., back-calculation of containing 707 rows and 625 columns. Ordinary kriging

the observed values) was carried out with all the samples was used with a block size of 22 and a search neigh-

including spatial outliers. The results are shown in bourhood of 32 nearest-neighbours. The interpolated

Fig. 8. It can be seen that the under-estimated and over- values were then back transformed according lognormal

estimated points are irregularly distributed over the kriging. Fig. 9 shows the nal result of this spatial

study area. The spatial outliers detected using local interpolation process.

Morans I in the eastern part tend to be under-esti- The data range of the interpolated values is from 3.3

mated, while those in the western and northeast parts are to 8.2% Cwb. This is narrower than that of the raw data

over-estimated, which reconrms that they are outliers. set (Table 2), but is to be expected because of the

For the log-transformed data, the median of the relative smoothing eect of the spatial interpolation. However,

absolute errors (the dierence between the estimated and this smoothing eect helps to identify the general spatial

1638 D. McGrath, C. Zhang / Applied Geochemistry 18 (2003) 16291639

patterns and reduces both the local variations and the Research Fund 2002 of National University of Ireland,

negative eect of random errors. The spatial distri- Galway. The raw data sets were provided by TEA-

bution of SOC is generally consistent with elevation GASC. Helpful discussions with Prof. Mcheal O Cin-

(Fig. 10) and precipitation (Rohan, 1975; Collins and neide are acknowledged. The authors are grateful to Dr.

Cummins, 1996) in Ireland. Richard Howarth, Dr. Nils Gustavsson, and an anon-

The highest SOC concentrations are located in the ymous reviewer for their helpful comments and sugges-

western coastal area, where elevation and precipitation are tions to improve this paper.

the highest. In the northern part, there is a relatively high-

concentration area between counties Cavan, Roscommon,

Leitrim and Monaghan. On the eastern side, a small References

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