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Effects of forest conversion on soil labile organic carbon fractions and aggregate stability in subtropical China

Abstract

Soil labile fractions play an important role in improving soil quality due to its ability of maintaining soil fertility and minimizing negative environmental impacts. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of forest transition (conversion of natural broadleaf forests into monoculture tree plantations) on soil labile fractions (light fraction organic carbon, particulate organic carbon, and microbial biomass carbon). Soil samples were collected from a natural forest of Castanopsis kawakamii Hayata (NF) and two adjacent 36-year-old monoculture plantations of C. kawakamii (CK) and Cunninghamia lanceolata Lamb. (Chinese fir) (CF) at Xinkou Experimental Forestry Centre, southeastern China. In the 0–100 cm depth, the light fraction organic carbon (LFOC), particulate organic carbon (POC) and microbial biomass carbon (MBC) were significantly lower in the CK and CF than in the NF (P < 0.05). Generally, LFOC, POC and MBC contents declined consistently with profile depth. Significant differences in LFOC, POC and MBC concentrations between the native forest and two plantations were detected at 0–40 cm depth, especially the top 10 cm, whereas there was less change below 40 cm, indicating that labile fraction losses due to forest transition mainly occurred in the surface soils. The three indices of labile organic carbon were closely correlated, suggesting they are interrelated properties. Labile fractions (LFOC, POC and MBC) were more sensitive indicators of SOC change resulting from the forest transition. We also found that forest types significantly affected the water stable aggregate >0.25 mm content (WSA) at the 0–10 cm depth. It suggested that converting old-growth native forest to intensively-managed plantations would reduce labile organic C, which may be attributed to a combination of factors including quantity of litter materials, microbial activity and management disturbances, which would change greatly with the forest conversion. How long these changes would persist needs the further study.

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Acknowledgements

This research was funded by the Ministry of Education of China through the Supporting Program for University Key Teacher and by the Key Basic Research Project of Fujian Province (2000F004).

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Correspondence to Yusheng Yang.

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Responsible Editor: Ingrid Koegel-Knabner.

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Yang, Y., Guo, J., Chen, G. et al. Effects of forest conversion on soil labile organic carbon fractions and aggregate stability in subtropical China. Plant Soil 323, 153–162 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-009-9921-4

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