Marin-Spiotta E.

Chemical and mineral control of soil carbon turnover in abandoned tropical pastures

Marín-Spiotta, Erika; Swanston, Christopher W.; Torn, Margaret S.; Silver, Whendee L.; Burton, Sarah D. 2007. Chemical and mineral control of soil carbon turnover in abandoned tropical pastures.. Geoderma, doi:10.1016/j.geoderma.2007.10.001.

We investigated changes in soil carbon (C) cycling with reforestation across a long-term, replicated chronosequence of tropical secondary forests regrowing on abandoned pastures. We applied CP MAS 13C NMR spectroscopy and radiocarbon modeling to soil density fractions from the top 10 cm to track changes in C chemistry and turnover during secondary forest establishment on former pastures. Our results showed that interaggregate, unattached, particulate organic C (free light fraction) and particulate C located inside soil aggregates (occluded light fraction) represent distinct soil C pools with different chemical composition and turnover rates. The signal intensity of the O-alkyl region, primarily representing carbohydrates, decreased, and alkyl C, attributed to recalcitrant waxy compounds and microbially resynthesized lipids, increased from plant litter to soil organic matter and with incorporation into soil aggregates. The alkyl/O-alkyl ratio, a common index of humification, was higher in the occluded than in the free light fraction. Greater variability in the chemical makeup of the occluded light fraction suggests that it represents material in varied stages of decomposition. Mean residence times (14C-based) of the free light fraction were significantly shorter (4±1 years) than for the heavy fraction. We report two scenarios for the occluded light fraction, one fast-cycling in which the occluded and free light fractions have similar turnover rates, and one slow-cycling, in which the occluded light fraction resembles the heavy fraction. Mean residence times of the occluded light fraction and heavy fraction in active pastures and 10-year old secondary forests in the earliest stage of succession were longer than in older secondary forests and primary forests. This is likely due to a preferential loss of physically unprotected C of more labile composition in the pastures and in the youngest successional forests, resulting in an increase in the dominance of slow-cycling C pools. Soil carbon turnover rates of the mineral-associated C in secondary forests recovering from abandoned pasture resembled those of primary forests in as little as 20 years of succession.


MARIN-SPIOTTA, E. ; OSTERTAG, R.; SILVER W. L. 2007. Long-term, patterns in tropical reforestation: plant community composition and aboveground biomass accumulation.. Ecological Applications, 17(3), :828-839.

Primary tropical forests are renowned for their high biodiversity and carbon storage, and considerable research has documented both species and carbon losses with deforestation and agricultural land uses. Economic drivers are now leading to the abandonment of agricultural lands, and the area in secondary forests is increasing. We know little about how long it takes for these ecosystems to achieve the structural and compositional characteristics of primary forests. In this study, we examine changes in plant species composition and aboveground biomass during eight decades of tropical secondary succession in Puerto Rico, and compare these patterns with primary forests. Using a well-replicated chronosequence approach, we sampled primary forests and secondary forests established 10, 20, 30, 60, and 80 years ago on abandoned pastures. Tree species composition in all secondary forests was different from that of primary forests and could be divided into early (10-, 20-, and 30-year) vs. late (60- and 80-year) successional phases. The highest rates of aboveground biomass accumulation occurred in the first 20 years, with rates of C sequestration peaking at 6.7 6 0.5 Mg Cha1yr1. Reforestation of pastures resulted in an accumulation of 125 Mg C/ha in aboveground standing live biomass over 80 years. The 80 year-old secondary forests had greater biomass than the primary forests, due to the replacement of woody species by palms in the primary forests. Our results show that these new ecosystems have different species composition, but similar species richness, and significant potential for carbon sequestration, compared to remnant primary forests.

Litterfall and Decomposition in Relation to Soil Carbon Pools Along a Secondary Forest Chronosequence in Puerto Rico

Ostertag, R.; Marín-Spiotta, E.; Silver, W.L.; Schulten, J. 2008. Litterfall and decomposition in relation to soil carbon pools along a secondary forest chronosequence in Puerto Rico. Ecosystems. 11:701-714.

Secondary forests are becoming increasingly widespread in the tropics, but our understanding of how secondary succession affects carbon (C) cycling and C sequestration in these ecosystems is limited. We used a well-replicated 80-year pasture to forest successional chronosequence and primary forest in Puerto Rico to explore the relationships among litterfall, litter quality, decomposition, and soil C pools. Litterfall rates recovered rapidly during early secondary succession and averaged 10.5 (± 0.1 SE) Mg/ha/y among all sites over a 2-year period. Although forest plant community composition and plant life form dominance changed during succession, litter chemistry as evaluated by sequential C fractions and by 13C-nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy did not change significantly with forest age, nor did leaf decomposition rates. Root decomposition was slower than leaves and was fastest in the 60-year-old sites and slowest in the 10- and 30-year-old sites. Common litter and common site experiments suggested that site conditions were more important controls than litter quality in this chronosequence. Bulk soil C content was positively correlated with hydrophobic leaf compounds, suggesting that there is greater soil C accumulation if leaf litter contains more tannins and waxy compounds relative to more labile compounds. Our results suggest that most key C fluxes associated with litter production and decomposition re-establish rapidly—within a decade or two—during tropical secondary succession. Therefore, recovery of leaf litter C cycling processes after pasture use are faster than aboveground woody biomass and species accumulation, indicating that these young secondary forests have the potential to recover litter cycling functions and provide some of the same ecosystem services of primary forests.
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