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Persistence of tree related patterns in soil nutrients following slash-and-burn disturbance in the tropics

Ingrid C. Døckersmith, Christian P. Giardina and Robert L. Sanford, Jr.
Plant and Soil
Vol. 209, No. 1 (1999), pp. 137-156
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/42949579
Page Count: 20
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Persistence of tree related patterns in soil nutrients following slash-and-burn disturbance in the tropics
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Abstract

Individual trees are known to influence soil chemical properties, creating spatial patterns that vary with distance from the stem. The influence of trees on soil chemical properties is commonly viewed as the agronomic basis for low-input agroforestry and shifting cultivation practices, and as an important source of spatial heterogeneity in forest soils. Few studies, however, have examined the persistence of the effects of trees on soil after the pathways responsible for the effects are removed. Here, we present evidence from a Mexican dry forest indicating that stemrelated patterns of soil nutrients do persist following slash-and-burn removal of trees and two years of cropping. Pre-disturbance concentrations of resin extractable phosphorus (P), bicarbonate extractable P, NaOH extractable P, total P, total nitrogen (N) and carbon (C), KC1 extractable nitrate (NO₃⁻), and net N mineralization and nitrification rates were higher in stem than dripline soils under two canopy dominant species of large-stemmed trees with contrasting morphologies and phenologies (Caesalpinia eriostachys Benth. and Forchhammeria pallida Liebm.). These stem effects persisted through slash burning and a first growing season for labile inorganic and organic P, NaOH inorganic P, and plant-available P, and through a second growing season for labile organic P, NaOH organic P, and plant-available P. While stem effects for extractable NO₃⁻, net nitrification rates, total N and C disappeared after felling and slash burning, these stem effects returned after the first growing season. These results support the view that tree-influenced patterns of soil nutrients do persist after tree death, and that trees contribute to the long-term spatial heterogeneity of forest soils.

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