Forests in seasonally dry areas of eastern Amazonia near Paragominas, Pará, Brazil, maintain an evergreen forest canopy through an extended dry season by taking up soil water through deep (>1 m) roots. Belowground allocation of C in these deep‐rooting forests is very large (1900 g C m−2 yr−1) relative to litterfall (460 g C m−2 yr−1). The presence of live roots drives an active carbon cycle deeper than l m in the soil. Although bulk C concentrations and 14C contents of soil organic matter at >l‐m depths are low, estimates of turnover from fine‐root inputs, CO2 production, and the 14C content of CO2 produced at depth show that up to 15% of the carbon inventory in the deep soil has turnover times of decades or less. Thus the amount of fast‐cycling soil carbon between 1 and 8‐m depths (2–3 kg C m−2, out of 17–18 kg C m−2) is significant compared to the amount present in the upper meter of soil (3–4 kg C m−2 out of 10–11 kg C m−2). A model of belowground carbon cycling derived from measurements of carbon stocks and fluxes, and constrained using carbon isotopes, is used to predict C fluxes associated with conversion of deep‐rooting forests to pasture and subsequent pasture management. The relative proportions and turnover times of active (including detrital plant material; 1–3 year turnover), slow (decadal and shorter turnover), and passive (centennial to millennial turnover) soil organic matter pools are determined by depth for the forest soil, using constraints from measurements of C stocks, fluxes, and isotopic content. Reduced carbon inputs to the soil in degraded pastures, which are less productive than the forests they replace, lead to a reduction in soil carbon inventory and Δ14C, in accord with observations. Managed pastures, which have been fertilized with phosphorous and planted with more productive grasses, show increases in C and 14C over forest values. Carbon inventory increases in the upper meter of managed pasture soils are partially offset by predicted carbon losses due to death and decomposition of fine forest roots at depths >1 m in the soil. The major adjustments in soil carbon inventory in response to land management changes occur within the first decade after conversion. Carbon isotopes are shown to be more sensitive indicators of recent accumulation or loss of soil organic matter than direct measurement of soil C inventories.
Global Biogeochemical Cycles – Wiley
Published: Dec 1, 1995
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