CIFOR–ICRAF publishes over 750 publications every year on agroforestry, forests and climate change, landscape restoration, rights, forest policy and much more – in multiple languages.

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We deliver actionable evidence and solutions to transform how land is used and how food is produced: conserving and restoring ecosystems, responding to the global climate, malnutrition, biodiversity and desertification crises. In short, improving people’s lives.

Drivers of soil organic carbon stock during tropical forest succession

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Soil organic matter contributes to productivity in terrestrial ecosystems and contains more carbon than is found in the atmosphere. Yet, there is little understanding of soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration processes during tropical forest succession, particularly after land abandonment from agriculture practices. Here, we used vegetation and environmental data from two large-scale surveys covering a total landscape area of 20,000 ha in Southeast Asia to investigate the effects of plant species diversity, functional trait diversity, phylogenetic diversity, above-ground biomass and environmental factors on SOC sequestration during forest succession. We found that functional trait diversity plays an important role in determining SOC sequestration across successional trajectories. Increases in SOC carbon storage were associated with indirect positive effects of species diversity and succession age via functional trait diversity, but phylogenetic diversity and above-ground biomass showed no significant relationship with SOC stock. Furthermore, the effects of soil properties and functional trait diversity on SOC carbon storage shift across elevation. Synthesis. Our results suggest that reforestation and restoration management practices that implement a trait-based approach by combining long-lived and short-lived species (conservative and acquisitive traits) to increase plant functional diversity could enhance SOC sequestration for climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, as well as accelerate recovery of healthy soils.

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