Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 163–170 | Cite as

Changes in soil chemistry associated with the establishment of forest gardens on eroded, acidified grassland soils in Sri Lanka

  • Ilyas SiddiqueEmail author
  • Caroline Gutjahr
  • Gamini Seneviratne
  • Broder Breckling
  • Sudheera W. Ranwala
  • Ian J. Alexander
Original Paper


Topsoil properties were determined in forest gardens established about 20 years ago on eroded grassland soils (abandoned tea lands) in the wet zone of the Sri Lankan highlands. They were compared with adjacent, eroded grasslands (abandoned tea lands) on strongly weathered soils vs soils at earlier stages of pedogenic development in a two-way analysis of variance. Soil pH in forest gardens was, on average, 6.1, nearly one unit higher than in the adjacent grasslands. In the garden soils, the cation exchange capacity (CEC measured at pH 4.8) was nearly double, exchangeable calcium concentrations five times and exchangeable magnesium three times as high as in the grasslands soils. Total soil N content was found to be nearly 40% higher in the gardens. Topsoil gravel contents in the gardens were less than half as high as in the grasslands. The increases in exchangeable bases and N in gardens, relative to grasslands, were attributed to increased nutrient retention and acquisition. Higher retention was partly due to the higher CECpH4.8, and probably to reduced erosion and increased, continuous fine root density in the garden topsoils. Higher field CEC in gardens was likely to result from generally higher C contents and from the reversal of acidification, presumably caused by base accumulation and decomposition processes. Our results suggest that forest garden establishment on degraded grasslands can lead to accumulation of mobile nutrients in the topsoil, probably due to increased nutrient retention, subsoil uptake and litter input exceeding nutrient uptake by the standing biomass.


Soil acidity Exchangeable bases CEC at low pH Multistrata agroforests Tropical tree fallows 



We would like to thank the Natural Resource Management Centre of the Sri Lankan Department of Agriculture for providing daily rainfall data and Dr. Seneviratne Somaratne for his help with the measurement of soil respiration. We acknowledge the following organisations for contributing funds: University of Aberdeen, Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, Royal Geographical Society, Institute of Biology, Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes (German National Academic Foundation), Gilchrist Educational Trust, Percy Sladen Memorial Fund.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ilyas Siddique
    • 1
    Email author
  • Caroline Gutjahr
    • 1
  • Gamini Seneviratne
    • 2
  • Broder Breckling
    • 3
  • Sudheera W. Ranwala
    • 1
  • Ian J. Alexander
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenUK
  2. 2.Institute of Fundamental StudiesKandySri Lanka
  3. 3.Center for Environmental Research and TechnologyUniversity of BremenBremenGermany

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