, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 193-209

Effects of Soil Texture on Belowground Carbon and Nutrient Storage in a Lowland Amazonian Forest Ecosystem

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Soil texture plays a key role in belowground C storage in forest ecosystems and strongly influences nutrient availability and retention, particularly in highly weathered soils. We used field data and the Century ecosystem model to explore the role of soil texture in belowground C storage, nutrient pool sizes, and N fluxes in highly weathered soils in an Amazonian forest ecosystem. Our field results showed that sandy soils stored approximately 113 Mg C ha-1 to a 1-m depth versus 101 Mg C ha-1 in clay soils. Coarse root C represented a large and significant ecosystem C pool, amounting to 62% and 48% of the surface soil C pool on sands and clays, respectively, and 34% and 22% of the soil C pool on sands and clays to 1-m depth. The quantity of labile soil P, the soil C:N ratio, and live and dead fine root biomass in the 0–10-cm soil depth decreased along a gradient from sands to clays, whereas the opposite trend was observed for total P, mineral N, potential N mineralization, and denitrification enzyme activity. The Century model was able to predict the observed trends in surface soil C and N in loams and sands but underestimated C and N pools in the sands by approximately 45%. The model predicted that total belowground C (0–20 cm depth) in sands would be approximately half that of the clays, in contrast to the 89% we measured. This discrepancy is likely to be due to an underestimation of the role of belowground C allocation with low litter quality in sands, as well as an overestimation of the role of physical C protection by clays in this ecosystem. Changes in P and water availability had little effect on model outputs, whereas adding N greatly increased soil organic matter pools and productivity, illustrating the need for further integration of model structure and tropical forest biogeochemical cycling.

Received 3 March 1999; accepted 27 August 1999.