, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 91-100

A comparison of soil and microbial carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus contents, and macro-aggregate stability of a soil under native forest and after clearance for pastures and plantation forest

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Total, extractable, and microbial C, N, and P, soil respiration, and the water stability of soil aggregates in the F-H layer and top 20 cm of soil of a New Zealand yellow-brown earth (Typic Dystrochrept) were compared under long-term indigenous native forest (Nothofagus truncata), exotic forest (Pinus radiata), unfertilized and fertilized grass/clover pastures, and gorse scrub (Ulex europaeus). Microbial biomass C ranged from 1100 kg ha-1 (exotic forest) to 1310kg ha-1 (gorse scrub), and comprised 1–2% of the organic C. Microbial N and P comprised 138–282 and 69–119 kg ha-1 respectively, with the highest values found under pasture. Microbial N and P comprised 1.8–7.0 and 4.9–18% of total N and P in the topsoils, and 1.8–4.4 and 23–32%, respectively, in the F-H material. Organic C and N were higher under gorse scrub than other vegetation. Total and extractable P were highest under fertilized pasture. Annual fluxes through the soil microbial biomass were estimated to be 36–85 kg N ha-1 and 18–36 kg P ha-1, sufficiently large to make a substantial contribution to plant requirements. Differences in macro-aggregate stability were generally small. The current status of this soil several years after the establishment of exotic forestry, pastoral farming, or subsequent reversion to scrubland is that, compared to levels under native forest, there has been no decline in soil and microbial C, N, and P contents or macro-aggregate stability.