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Tropical Rainforest Restoration Plantations Are Slow to Restore the Soil Biological and Organic Carbon Characteristics of Old Growth Rainforest

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Bonner, M. T. L., Allen, D. E., Brackin, R., Smith, T. E., Lewis, T., Shoo, L. P. and Schmidt, S. (2020) Tropical Rainforest Restoration Plantations Are Slow to Restore the Soil Biological and Organic Carbon Characteristics of Old Growth Rainforest. Microbial Ecology, 79 . pp. 432-442. ISSN 0095-3628


Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00248-019-01414-7

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2Fs00248-019-01414-7.pdf


Widespread and continuing losses of tropical old-growth forests imperil global biodiversity and alter global carbon (C) cycling. Soil organic carbon (SOC) typically declines with land use change from old-growth forest, but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Ecological restoration plantations offer an established means of restoring aboveground biomass, structure and diversity of forests, but their capacity to recover the soil microbial community and SOC is unknown due to limited empirical data and consensus on the mechanisms of SOC formation. Here, we examine soil microbial community response and SOC in tropical rainforest restoration plantings, comparing them with the original old-growth forest and the previous land use (pasture). Two decades post-reforestation, we found a statistically significant but small increase in SOC in the fast-turnover particulate C fraction. Although the delta(13)C signature of the more stable humic organic C (HOC) fraction indicated a significant compositional turnover in reforested soils, from C4 pasture-derived C to C3 forest-derived C, this did not translate to HOC gains compared with the pasture baseline. Matched old-growth rainforest soils had significantly higher concentrations of HOC than pasture and reforested soils, and soil microbial enzyme efficiency and the ratio of gram-positive to gram-negative bacteria followed the same pattern. Restoration plantings had unique soil microbial composition and function, distinct from baseline pasture but not converging on target old growth rainforest within the examined timeframe. Our results suggest that tropical reforestation efforts could benefit from management interventions beyond re-establishing tree cover to realize the ambition of early recovery of soil microbial communities and stable SOC.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Horticulture and Forestry Science
Additional Information:Open access
Keywords:Land use change Microbial ecology Microbial function and composition Mixed-species plantations Soil carbon sequestration Soil fungi and bacteria
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agriculture and the environment
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Soils. Soil science
Forestry > Research. Experimentation
Forestry > Conservation and protection
Live Archive:04 Feb 2020 02:33
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 03:07

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