, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 110-116
Date: 28 May 2010

Changes in Soil Particulate Organic Matter, Microbial Biomass, and Activity Following Afforestation of Marginal Agricultural Lands in a Semi-Arid Area of Northeast China

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Abstract

Afforestation of agricultural lands has been one of the major land use changes in China in recent decades. To better understand the effect of such land use change on soil quality, we investigated selected soil physical, chemical and microbial properties (0–15 cm depth) in marginal agricultural land and a chronosequence of poplar (Populus euramericana cv. ‘N3016’) plantations (5-, 10-, 15- and 20-years old) in a semi-arid area of Northeast China. Soil bulk density significantly declined after conversion of agricultural lands to poplar plantations. Soil total organic carbon (TOC) and nitrogen (TN) concentrations, microbial biomass C (MBC) and potential N mineralization rate (PNM) decreased initially following afforestation of agricultural lands, and then increased with stand development. However, soil metabolic quotient (qCO2) exhibited a reverse trend. In addition, soil particulate organic matter C (POM-C) and N (POM-N) concentrations showed no significant changes in the first 10 years following afforestation, and then increased with stand age. These findings demonstrated that soil quality declined initially following afforestation of agricultural lands in semi-arid regions, and then recovered with stand development. Following 15 years of afforestation, many soil quality parameters recovered to the values found in agricultural land. We propose that change in soil quality with stand age should be considered in determining optimum rotation length of plantations and best management practices for afforestation programs.