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Forest-to-pasture conversion influences on soil organic carbon dynamics in a tropical deciduous forest

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On a global basis, nearly 42% of tropical land area is classified as tropical deciduous forest (TDF) (Murphy and Lugo 1986). Currently, this ecosystem has very high deforestation rates; and its conversion to cattle pasture may result in losses of soil organic matter, decreases in soil fertility, and increases in CO2 flux to the atmosphere. The soil organic matter turnover rate in a TDF after pasture conversion was estimated in Mexico by determining natural abundances of13C. Changes in these values would be induced by vegetation changes from the C3 (forest) to the C4 (pasture) photosynthetic pathway. The rate of loss of remnant forest-soil organic matter (fSOM) was 2.9 t ha−1 year−1 in 7-year-old pasture and decreased to 0.66 t ha−1 year−1 by year 11. For up to 3 years, net fSOM level increased in pastures; this increment can be attributed to decomposition of remnant forest roots. The sand-associated SOM fraction was the most and the silt-associated fraction the least depleted. TDF conversion to pasture results in extremely high rates of loss of remnant fSOM that are higher than any reported for any tropical forest.

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Correspondence to Felipe García-Oliva.

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García-Oliva, F., Casar, I., Morales, P. et al. Forest-to-pasture conversion influences on soil organic carbon dynamics in a tropical deciduous forest. Oecologia 99, 392–396 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00627754

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Key words

  • Tropical deciduous forest
  • Soil organic matter
  • δ13C
  • Soil carbon fractions
  • Forest-to-pasture conversion