Resource Details

Effects of forest clearing and succession on the carbon and nitrogen content of soils in Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands

Literature: Journal Articles

Brown, S., & Lugo, A. E. 1990. Effects of forest clearing and succession on the carbon and nitrogen content of soils in Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands. Plant and Soil, vol. 124, no. 1, pp. 53-64.


  • Department of Forestry, University of Illinois, 110 Mumford Hall, 1301 W. Gregory, Urbana, IL 61801, USA
  • Institute of Tropical Forestry, USDA Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station, Call Box 25000, Rio Piedras, PR 00928-2500, USA


Plant and Soil Journal

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  • This study examined a time-series of wet, moist, and dry sites of cropland, pasture, reforested land (from 10-50 years), and mature (or 100-yr secondary) forest
  • Results –
    • Soil carbon concentrations were highest in the dry forest, and decreased with conversion to agriculture, and increased gradually with conversion back to forest. Forest conversion to pasture resulted in less carbon and nitrogen N loss than conversion to cropland.
    • Carbon content in mature wet and moist forest declined with soil depth down to 40 cm, and remained relatively stable beyond this (the moist forest had shallower soils, however).
    • In wet secondary forests, carbon accumulated primarily in the upper 50 cm, whereas carbon was more evenly distributed in the moist secondary.
    • Soil carbon increased with secondary forest age, and ~ 50 year secondary forest had approximately the same amount of soil carbon as the mature forest.
    • Secondary forests in the moist and dry zones had high nitrogen levels, likely due to the common occurance of leguminous trees. 
  • Authors conclude that rapid plant growth during succession will allow the soil to rebuild carbon and nitrogen. This process will be slower in dry forests, but because carbon depletion during cultivation was less, overall recovery is quicker. Also, authors suggest that soil carbon and nitrogen should be measured to depths below 30 cm because concentrations can change significantly.

Geographical Region

  • Caribbean Islands
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