Resource Details

Amelioration of degraded rain forest soils by plantations of native trees (Rehabilitacion de suelos degrados de bosques humedos por medio de plantaciones de arboles nativos)

Literature: Journal Articles Available at NO COST

Fisher, R.F. 1995. "Amelioration of degraded rain forest soils by plantations of native trees", Soil Science Society of America Journal, Vol. 59, No. 2, p. 544-549.


Texas A&M University


Soil Science Society of America Journal

Species Info

  • Hyeronima alchorneoides
  • Inga edulis
  • Pentaclethera macroloba
  • Pithecellobium macradenium
  • Stryphnodendron microstachyum
  • Virola koschnyi
  • Vochysia guatemalensis
  • Vochysia ferruginea
  • Acacia mangium(exotic)
  • Gmeilna arborea(exotic)
  • Pinus tecunumanii (exotic)


  • This study examined the soil qualities of a native / exotic tree plantation in Costa Rica: researchers planted 8 species of native trees in an abandoned pasture in (which had been cleared 25 years earlier) and measured soil attributes at the time of planting and after 4 years of growth.
  • The author reviews conventional wisdom pertaining to forestation in abandoned agricultural fields: in temperate zones, tree growth restores soil qualities (increase in soil organic matter and cation exchange capacity) in conditions of fixed-charge clays and weatherable parent material. In the tropics, however, most soils have few weatherable materials and variable-charged clays.
  • This study tests four hypotheses of conventional wisdom regarding restoration of soil qualities:
    • Growth of Nitrogen fixing trees adds available Nitrogen to the soil
    • Root systems allow trees to accumulate nutrients from a wide area and return them to specific areas in the soil via litterfall
    • Trees increase soil organic matter and change soil properties of bulk density, cation exchange capacity, and nutrient availability.
    • Forestation changes the micro-climate (i.e. soil moisture)
  • The study found that only Inga edulis and Acacia mangium increased soil Nitrogen (perhaps because the other Nitrogen fixer was a slow growing species and had not yet developed after only four years of growth).  
  • A. mangium and all species of Virola raised soil Carbon (likely because they have high litter production)
  • Bulk density increased under 2 species but decreased under most of the others- this is expected because input of leaf litter and soil organic matter will decrease the bulk density. This finding was interesting because bulk density decreased even under trees that had no significant inputs of soil organic matter - suggesting high biotic activity in the litter such as earthworm and arthropods.
  • Change in soil ph was variable among the eight tree species, and extractable amounts of Phosphorous increased under four species.
  • Soil moisture increased at a depth of 10cm (likely due to lower rates of evapotranspiration) and decreased at 20cm or 30cm (as deeper roots suck up more water than pasture grass), both in rainy and dry seasons.
  • Conclusions (from the original hypotheses)
    • Some trees can fix N in a short amount of time
    • Trees can increase the soil organic matter, even in a short time, and decrease in bulk density is not dependent on the addition of (low density) soil organic matter
    • Nutrient concentrations rose under certain trees
    • Microclimate was not intensively studies, but significant changes in soil moisture were observed

Geographical Region

  • Southern Central America
  • Ecosystems

  • Tropical Wet Forest
  • Country

  • Costa Rica
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