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Long-term response of tropical Andisol properties to conversion from rainforest to agriculture

  • Author(s): Anda, M;
  • Dahlgren, RA
  • et al.

Short-term changes in tropical rainforest soil properties and their impact on C cycling following land-use conversion to agriculture have received intensive study. However, long-term, land-use changes have not been explored for tropical Andisols, whose high carbon stocks and several distinctive properties may differ in their response to land-use conversion. Thus, the primary objective of this study was to assess changes in selected soil properties of Andisols in response to long-term (>100 years) changes of land use from tropical rainforests to agriculture. Soils were sampled by horizon to a depth of 110–140 cm in pine forests (PF), tea plantation (TP) and horticultural crops with either intensive cultivation (IH) or bare fallow (FH) cropping systems. Selected physical, chemical and biological soil properties were characterized, including microbial biomass carbon (MBC) and laboratory CO2 mineralization rates. Results showed that land-use change from rainforest to agriculture resulted in increased soil bulk density and meso/micropores that contributed to increased plant-available water retention capacity. Soil carbon and nitrogen stocks in the upper 1 m of soil were higher in agricultural soils (25–29 kg C m−2; 1.7 – 2.3 kg N m−2) than pine forest soil (17 kg C m−2; 1 kg N m−2) with a redistribution of organic matter from topsoil to subsoil horizons. Organic matter quality was also affected by land-use conversion with the horticultural soils having lower rates of carbon mineralization per unit soil carbon (PF > TP > IH > FH) and lower microbial biomass, especially in topsoil horizons. The MBC sharply decreased in the topsoil horizon due to land-use change from forest (330 mg kg−1) to agricultural production (<118 mg kg−1). The intensive horticultural soil receiving recent additions of horse manure had higher extractable mineral N (especially NO3), reduced P fixation, increased available P, higher pH, and higher concentrations of exchangeable base cations (Ca2+, Mg2+ and K+) and micronutrients (Zn, Mn and Cu). The Andisols in this study demonstrated strong resilience to long-term degradation of soil properties following conversion from rainforest to agronomic land use. Further, this study demonstrates the ability of these Andisols to sequester additional C upon conversion to selected agriculture practices, thereby providing a positive impact on C mitigation.

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