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Substantial changes in podzol morphology after tree‐roots modify soil porosity and hydrology in a tropical coastal rainforest

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Abstract

Aims

We investigated morphological variations in podzols caused by changes in soil porosity and permeability upon the growth of large tree-roots in a tropical barrier island (Ilha Comprida, Brazil).

Methods

Soil morphology was described in a continuous lateral sequence of podzols on a 35 m-long cliff. A soil thin section was used to characterize organic matter (OM) accumulation and to estimate soil porosity, permeability, and saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ksat). Soil texture and the contents of organic carbon, Al, and Fe were determined for each pedogenic horizon containing large tree-roots. The evolution of podzol morphology was interpreted in the context of age determinations by optically stimulated luminescence and 14C.

Results

Taproots of cashew trees (Anacardium occidentale) penetrated the cemented Bhm horizon and the massive-clayey 2Cgj horizon. Aligned with the taproot, we found a vertical OM-band with lower porosity, permeability, and Ksat than the adjacent Bh and E horizons. Irregular or broken boundaries between the E and Bh horizons were caused by large tree-roots. While the maximum age of these podzols is 3390 ± 530 years, significant and rapid changes in the Bh-horizon morphology occurred within the lifetime of the cashew trees (~ 50 years).

Conclusions

The interplay between reduction in flow adjacent to large taproots and the enhanced vertical infiltration at depth has resulted into the development of irregular and broken boundaries between the E and Bh horizons. Because tree-roots alter both local soil porosity and water flow paths, they simultaneously cause the formation and degradation of podzol Bh-horizon.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) project 2012/50276-0. We thank the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) for the scholarships granted to the first author (130302/2013-9 and 203749/2014-6), and for the last author (301818/2017-7). We thank Dorival Grisoto, Josiane Lopes-Mazzeto, and Judith Schellekens for the assistance in the fieldwork. We thank Maria Dragila for the insights on hydrologic parameters. We thank Karina Marques and Mariane Chiapini for taking photos of the soil thin section. We appreciate the comments and suggestions of three anonymus reviewers which helped us to improve the clarity of the article.

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Martinez, P., Buurman, P., do Nascimento, D.L. et al. Substantial changes in podzol morphology after tree‐roots modify soil porosity and hydrology in a tropical coastal rainforest. Plant Soil 463, 77–95 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-021-04896-y

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