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Shaded coffee systems can mitigate climate change by fixation of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) in soil. Understanding soil organic carbon (SOC) storage and the factors influencing SOC in coffee plantations are necessary for the development of sound land management practices to prevent land degradation and minimize SOC losses. This study was conducted in the main coffee-growing regions of Yunnan; SOC concentrations and storage of shaded and unshaded coffee systems were assessed in the top 40 cm of soil. Relationships between SOC concentration and factors affecting SOC were analysed using multiple linear regression based on the forward and backward stepwise regression method. Factors analysed were soil bulk density (ρb), soil pH, total nitrogen of soil (N), mean annual temperature (MAT), mean annual moisture (MAM), mean annual precipitation (MAP) and elevations (E). Akaike's information criterion (AIC), coefficient of determination (R2), root mean square error (RMSE) and residual sum of squares (RSS) were used to describe the accuracy of multiple linear regression models. Results showed that mean SOC concentration and storage decreased significantly with depth under unshaded coffee systems. Mean SOC concentration and storage were higher in shaded than unshaded coffee systems at 20–40 cm depth. The correlations between SOC concentration and ρb, pH and N were significant. Evidence from the multiple linear regression model showed that soil bulk density (ρb), soil pH, total nitrogen of soil (N) and climatic variables had the greatest impact on soil carbon storage in the coffee system.
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