, Volume 220, Issue 1-2, pp 151-163

Effects of afforestation on phosphorus dynamics and biological properties in a New Zealand grassland soil

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Selected chemical, biochemical and biological properties of mineral soil (0–30 cm) were measured under a 19 year old forest stand (mixture of Pinus ponderosa and Pinus nigra) and adjacent unimproved grassland at a site in South Island, New Zealand. The effects of afforestation on soil properties were confined to the 0–10 cm layer, which reflected the distribution of fine roots (< 2 mm) in the soil profile. Concentrations of organic C, total N and P and all organic forms of P were lower under the forest stand, while concentrations of inorganic P were higher under forest compared with grassland, supporting the previously described suggestion that afforestation may promote mineralisation of soil organic matter and organic P. On the other hand, microbial biomass C and P, soil respiration and phosphatase enzyme activity were currently all lower and the metabolic quotient was higher in soil under forest compared with grassland, which is inconsistent with increased mineralisation in the forest soil. Reduced biological fertility by afforestation may be mainly attributed to changes in the quantity, quality and distribution of organic matter, and reduction in pH of the forest soil compared with the grassland soil. We hypothesize that the lower levels of C, N and organic P found in soil under forest are due to enhanced microbial and phosphatase activity during the earlier stages of forest development. Forest floor material (L and F layer) contained large amounts of C, N and P, together with high levels of microbial and phosphatase enzyme activity. Thus, the forest floor may be an important source of nutrients for plant growth and balance the apparent reduction in C, N and P in mineral soil through mineralisation and plant uptake.

This revised version was published online in June 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.