Based on biomass size, the contribution of fungi to nutrient cycling and soil properties is in general more important in natural ecosystems than in agro-ecosystems. Therefore, we expect an increase of fungal biomass after cessation of cultivation to values of a natural ecosystem. However, so far, information on fungal dynamics in ex-arable land is limited. We quantified fungal biomass in a chronosequence of 26 ex-arable fields in the Netherlands ranging from 1-34 years of abandonment. Agricultural lands and semi-natural heathlands were included as reference sites for initial and final stages of succession, respectively. Fungal biomass values were low at the start of land abandonment and increased during the first 2 years after abandonment. After this initial increase of fungal biomass no further increase was apparent, neither did we find any relations with time since abandonment and changes in soil acidity, organic matter content or organic matter quality (quantity of recalcitrant C and C:N ratio). Therefore, we conclude that the initial increase of fungal biomass is caused by stopping agricultural management activities. A phase of stabilization occurs for at least three decades in which the size of the fungal biomass did not change significantly. We observed much higher values for fungal biomass, total and recalcitrant carbon in the heathland sites. We propose that a change in abiotic soil properties is a prerequisite for further increase of fungal biomass towards levels of representative heathlands. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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