Resource Details

Soil carbon differences among forest, agriculture, and secondary vegetation in lower montane Ecuador

Literature: Journal Articles

Rhoades, C.C., Eckert, G.E. & Coleman, D.C. 2000. "Soil carbon differences among forest, agriculture, and secondary vegetation in lower montane Ecuador", Ecological Applications, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 497-505.

Contact Info

Corresponding Author:


Inistitutte of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens., Georgia 30602 USA


Ecological Applications

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Species Info

  • Nectandra acutifolia


  • In this study, researchers examined the difference in soil organic carbon and other soil properties in mature forest, re-vegetated shrub (5-10 years), re-vegetated forest (15-20 years, dominated by Nectandra acutifolia), pasture, and sugarcane cropland in montane Ecuador. 
  • Background - Soil contains 75% of global terrestrial carbon and tropical soils contain 32% of the global total. Conversion of tropical forest to cropland results in an ~ 20-50% reduction in soil carbon, while conversion of tropical forest to pasture results in an ~ 18-20% loss (but in some conditions it can actually increase 15-50% - Neill et al. 1996).
  • Results -
    • The study found that soil ph did not differ between forest and agricultural / pasture sites. Bulk density was higher in agricultural land and pasture. 
    • Overall, soil Carbon was 24%, 14%, and 9% lower in sugar cane, mixed-grass pasture, and single-species pasture than in mature forest (crop production is often lower in SOC due to greater soil disturbance and erosion). Agricultural and pasture sites added C4 (forest derived) soil organic carbon but lost C3 (crop and pasture derived) SOC (with an overall net loss).  
    • Reforested plots had SOC similar to the mature forest (and shifted back to C3-based carbon) with an overall net increase - 1.7 and 1.5 times more SOC than sugarcane and mixed-species pasture. Litter carbon inputs were similar between the secondary forest and the mature forest. Shrub re-vegetation had higher SOC than sugar cane but not from mixed grass pasture. 
  • Lessons- Authors conclude -
    • Conversion of crop land (sugarcane) to well-managed pasture may increase SOC (Setaria sphacelata pastures are more popular dues to ease and rapid growth).
    • Secondary forests will rapidly restore levels of SOC (within 20 years).

Geographical Region

  • Andean Region
  • Ecosystems

  • Montane Forest
  • Country

  • Ecuador
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