Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2017, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (6): 632-638.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2016.0286

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effects of storage conditions on total carbon and nitrogen contents of soil and plant samples

Ya-Han CHEN, Zong-Qiang XIE*()   

  1. State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China
  • Received:2017-02-28 Accepted:2016-09-13 Online:2017-07-19 Published:2017-06-10
  • Contact: Zong-Qiang XIE
  • About author:

    KANG Jing-yao(1991-), E-mail:


Aims The storage of soil and plant samples has important significance for ecological studies, but has not been widely used. This study aims to compare total carbon/nitrogen content of soil and plant samples before and after long term storage, and further to investigate the feasibility of archiving samples for time series ecological studies at large temporal scales.Methods Soil and plant samples were collected in the growing season in 2011. Carbon/nitrogen mass fraction were analyzed after four years of storage, and were compared with the data obtained before storage using pairwise t-test and linear regression.Important findings Nitrogen mass fractions of stored samples were linearly correlated to the data before storage along the 1:1 line under different storage conditions, and the correlation coefficient r was greater than 0.98 (except for soil samples stored at temperature lower than 20 °C and with particle size <2 mm, r = 0.91). The carbon mass fraction after storage was changed by the storage conditions. Carbon mass fractions of stored samples with particle size <0.15 mm were linearly correlated to the data before storage along the 1:1 line (r > 0.98). Carbon mass fractions of samples with particle size <2 mm increased after storage, and the slope of the linear relationship was 1.26 and 1.04 for soil and plant samples respectively. These results indicated that, nitrogen content of stored samples was stable under different storage conditions, while the stability of carbon content was affected by sample particle size but by storage temperature. Archived samples used for carbon/nitrogen analysis were suggested to be ground to particle size <0.15 mm under fully dry and completely sealed conditions.

Key words: carbon mass fraction, nitrogen mass fraction, sample particle size, storage time, long time series

Table 1

Carbon and nitrogen mass fractions of soil samples analyzed in 2012 and 2016 (mean ± SD)"

粒径<0.15 mm Particle size <0.15 mm 粒径<2 mm Particle size <2 mm
低温 Low temperature
低温 Low temperature 常温 Room temperature
碳质量分数 Carbon mass fraction (%)
2012 1.56 ± 2.23 0.806 ± 0.634 1.54 ± 0.65
2016 1.53 ± 2.09 0.826 ± 0.633 1.69 ± 0.88
两次测试差异 Difference between the two times -0.04* 0.02* 0.15*
氮质量分数 Nitrogen mass fraction (%)
2012 0.129 ± 0.154 0.072 ± 0.036 0.128 ± 0.076
2016 0.129 ± 0.157 0.075 ± 0.037 0.138 ± 0.087
两次测试差异 Difference between the two times ns 0.003* 0.01*

Fig. 1

Linear regression relationship between carbon/nitrogen mass fractions of soil samples analyzed in 2012 and 2016 under different storage conditions. A, B, low temperature (<20 °C), particle size <0.15 mm. C, D, room temperature, particle size <0.15 mm. E, F, low temperature (<20 °C), particle size <2 mm. C%, carbon mass fraction; N%, nitrogen mass fraction; r, correlation coefficient; s, slope of linear regression; solid line, regression line; dashed line, 1:1 line."

Table 2

Carbon and nitrogen mass fractions of plant samples analyzed in 2012 and 2016 (mean ± SD)"

Low temperature
粒径<2 mm
Particle size
<2 mm
Room temperature
粒径<0.15 mm
Particle size
<0.15 mm
碳质量分数 Carbon mass fraction (%)
2012 44.30 ± 4.40 44.30 ± 4.40
2016 46.09 ± 4.21 44.89 ± 4.42
Difference between the two times
1.79* 0.58*
氮质量分数 Nitrogen mass fraction (%)
2012 0.789 ± 0.620 0.789 ± 0.620
2016 0.796 ± 0.622 0.774 ± 0.619
Difference between the two times
ns -0.01*

Fig. 2

Linear regression relationship between carbon/nitrogen mass fraction of plant samples analyzed in 2012 and 2016 under different storage conditions. A, B, low temperature (<20 °C), particle size <2 mm. C, D, room temperature, particle size <0.15 mm. C%, carbon mass fraction; N%, nitrogen mass fraction; r, correlation coefficient; s, slope of linear regression; solid line, regression line; dashed line, 1:1 line."

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