Loss of nutrients from terrestrial ecosystems to streams and the atmosphere following land use change in Amazonia

  • Davidson E
  • Neill C
  • Krusche A
 et al. 
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Abstract

Rates of deforestation in the Amazon region have been accelerating, but the quan- tity and timing of nutrient losses from forested and deforested ecosystems are poorly understood. This paper investigates the broad variation in soil properties of the Amazon Basin as they influence transfers of plant nutrients from the terrestrial biosphere to the atmosphere and the aquatic biosphere. The dominant lowland soils are highly weathered Oxisols and Ultisols, but significant areas of Alfisols also exist, resulting in a wide range of weatherable primary minerals. Despite this con- siderable variation among Amazonian soils, a common feature in most mature low- land Amazonian forests is a conservative P cycle and excess N availability. In cattle pastures and secondary forests, however, low rates of internal terrestrial N cycling, low N export to streams, and low gaseous N emissions from soils are common, due to significant previous losses of N through repeated fire. Export of P to streams may increase or remain nearly undetectable after forest-to-pasture conversion, depending on soil type. Oxisols exhibit very low P export, whereas increased P export to pasture streams has been observed in Ultisols of western Amazonia. Cal- cium is mostly retained in terrestrial ecosystems following deforestation, although increased inputs to streams can be detected when background fluxes are naturally low. Because soil mineralogy and soil texture are both variable and important, the effects of land-use change on nutrient export to aquatic ecosystems and to the atmos- phere must be understood within the context of varying soil properties across the Ama- zon Basin.

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