Tropical soils contain large stocks of carbon and nitrogen that can be altered by clearing for agriculture. In the Brazilian Amazon, cattle pasture is the predominant use for cleared forest lands. We examined changes to soil bulk density and C and N stocks in seven chronosequences, each consisting of an intact forest and pastures of different ages created directly from cleared forest (7 forests, 18 pastures), along a 700-km transect in Rondônia in the southwestern Amazon Basin. The transect included sites with a similar climate but a range of soil types. We used soil δδ 13 C distributions to determine the origin of soil C and to infer changes to soil C cycling patterns after forest clearing. Soil bulk density increased under pasture; these increases were significant in 6 of 18 pastures examined. Changes in C stocks to a depth of 30 cm under pasture ranged from a loss of 0.72 kg//m 2 to an increase of 1.77 kg//m 2 . Soil C stocks increased in 14 of 18 pastures, but these increases were significant in only 4 pastures. Changes in soil N stocks to a depth of 30 cm ranged from a loss of 0.25 kg//m 2 to a gain of 0.23 kg//m 2 and showed a similar pattern to C, except in one site where we measured significant N loss. Five of 18 pastures accumulated significant amounts of N, and one pasture lost a significant amount of N. Soil δδ 13 C values were greater in pastures than in the original forests, and δδ 13 C values increased with a longer time under C 4 pasture vegetation. Bulk density increases were greater on soils with higher clay contents. Carbon accumulation increased with pasture age but was independent of soil texture. Soil C increases to a depth of 30 cm of up to 1.77 kg//m 2 amounted to an increase of >50%% of the original soil C stock and represented up to 12%% of the C in the biomass of forest vegetation. In contrast, changes to soil N stocks in the range of 0.25 kg//m 2 approximately equaled the N stock in the original forest vegetation. Our results indicated that when site history was controlled by considering only pastures formed directly from cleared forest, C and N accumulation was the dominant trend in pasture soils. Absence of a correlation between C and N accumulation and soil texture suggested that site history and management may be more important than soil type as determinants of the direction and magnitude of changes in soil C and N stocks.
Ecological Applications – Ecological Society of America
Published: Nov 1, 1997
Keywords: Amazon ; Brazil ; land-use change ; organic matter ; pasture ; Rondônia ; soil ; tropical forests
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