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Soil Changes Induced by Rubber and Tea Plantation Establishment: Comparison with Tropical Rain Forest Soil in Xishuangbanna, SW China

Abstract

Over the past thirty years, Xishuangbanna in Southwestern China has seen dramatic changes in land use where large areas of tropical forest and fallow land have been converted to rubber and tea plantations. In this study we evaluated the effects of land use and slope on soil properties in seven common disturbed and undisturbed land-types. Results indicated that all soils were acidic, with pH values significantly higher in the 3- and 28-year-old rubber plantations. The tropical forests had the lowest bulk densities, especially significantly lower from the top 10 cm of soil, and highest soil organic matter concentrations. Soil moisture content at topsoil was highest in the mature rubber plantation. Soils in the tropical forests and abandoned cultivated land had inorganic N (IN) concentrations approximately equal in NH4 +-N and NO3 -N. However, soil IN pools were dominated by NH4 +-N in the rubber and tea plantations. This trend suggests that conversion of tropical forest to rubber and tea plantations increases NH4 +-N concentration and decreases NO3 -N concentration, with the most pronounced effect in plantations that are more frequently fertilized. Soil moisture content, IN, NH4 +-N and NO3 -N concentrations within all sites were higher in the rainy season than in the dry season. Significant differences in the soil moisture content, and IN, NH4 +-N and NO3 -N concentration was detected for both land uses and sampling season effects, as well as interactions. Higher concentrations of NH4 +-N were measured at the upper slopes of all sites, but NO3 -N concentrations were highest at the lower slope in the rubber plantations and lowest at the lower slopes at all other. Thus, the conversion of tropical forests to rubber and tea plantations can have a profound effect on soil NH4 +-N and NO3 -N concentrations. Options for improved soil management in plantations are discussed.

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Acknowledgments

This work was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31170447 and 41271051). We are grateful to Liu MN and Li SA for their assistance in the field. We thank the Biogeochemistry Lab of Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanic Garden who provided help in soil analysis. We also thank Fu Y and Sha LQ for their helpful advice in methodological development. We appreciate our colleagues Li ZJ, Feng S, Wu JF and Xu WR for their help in soil sample collection. We also thank the editor and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on the manuscript. We are grateful to Dr. Pelin Kayaalp for improving the language.

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Li, H., Ma, Y., Liu, W. et al. Soil Changes Induced by Rubber and Tea Plantation Establishment: Comparison with Tropical Rain Forest Soil in Xishuangbanna, SW China. Environmental Management 50, 837–848 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-012-9942-2

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Keywords

  • Soil nitrogen
  • Rubber plantation
  • Tropical forest
  • Land-use change
  • Slope position
  • Environmental effect