On a global basis, nearly 42% of tropical land area is classified as tropical deciduous forest (TDF) (Murphy and Lugo 1986). Currently, this ecosystem has very high deforestation rates; and its conversion to cattle pasture may result in losses of soil organic matter, decreases in soil fertility, and increases in CO 2 flux to the atmosphere. The soil organic matter turnover rate in a TDF after pasture conversion was estimated in Mexico by determining natural abundances of 13 C. Changes in these values would be induced by vegetation changes from the C 3 (forest) to the C 4 (pasture) photosynthetic pathway. The rate of loss of remnant forest-soil organic matter (fSOM) was 2.9 t ha −1 year −1 in 7-year-old pasture and decreased to 0.66 t ha −1 year −1 by year 11. For up to 3 years, net fSOM level increased in pastures; this increment can be attributed to decomposition of remnant forest roots. The sand-associated SOM fraction was the most and the silt-associated fraction the least depleted. TDF conversion to pasture results in extremely high rates of loss of remnant fSOM that are higher than any reported for any tropical forest.
Oecologia – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 1, 1994
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