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Soil quality indicators in an Andisol under different tree covers in disturbed Nothofagus forests

Marianela Alfaro1, 2, Francis Dube2*, and Erick Zagal3

Non-systemic logging, cattle browsing and grazing with the site natural vegetation can modify tree covers in native forests and alter the quantity and quality of organic matter entering the soil and hence its overall quality. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of modifying tree covers by uncontrolled logging and grazing processes on soil quality, in a mature and unmanaged roble (Nothofagus obliqua (Mirb.) Blume) forest. Soil quality was evaluated under partly-closed (PC), partly-open (PO), and open (OP) forest covers, and two soil depths. The indicators used were soil organic C (SOC), potential net N mineralization (N-min), and nitrification (N-NO3), soil microbial respiration (SMR), microbial biomass C (MBC), soil aggregates, and light fraction (LF). At 0-5 cm soil depth SMR and MBC in PC cover was approximately 12% higher than in PO and OP covers. For the same soil depth N-min in PC cover was 68% and 95% higher than in PO and OP covers, respectively; and for N-NO3 PC cover was 45% higher than PO cover. OP tree cover presented a negative N-NO3 (immobilization). Dry weight for LF fraction in OP cover (labile OM) was 90% and 67% lower respect PC and PO covers, respectively (P < 0.05). The soil quality and the activity of its microbial processes were affected by alteration of tree cover, as well by the anthropic action of logging and extensive grazing, the soil in OP cover was the most affected.

Key words: Andisol, disturbed forest, Nothofagus obliqua, soil quality, temperate forest, tree covers.

1Universidad de Costa Rica, Facultad de Ingeniería, Casilla 11501-2060, San José, Costa Rica.
2Universidad de Concepción, Facultad de Ciencias Forestales, Victoria 631, Concepción, Chile. *Corresponding author (fdube@udec.cl).
3Universidad de Concepción, Facultad de Agronomía, Av. Vicente Méndez 595, Chillán, Chile.

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