Unexpected changes in soil phosphorus dynamics along pasture chronosequences in the humid tropics

Alan R. Townsend, Gregory P. Asner, Cory C. Cleveland, Margaret E. Lefer, Mercedes M.C. Bustamante

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Phosphorus (P) is widely believed to limit plant growth and organic matter storage in a large fraction of the world's lowland tropical rain forests. We investigated how the most common land use change in such forests, conversion to cattle pasture, affects soil P fractions along pasture chronosequences in the central Brazilian Amazon and in southwestern Costa Rica. Our sites represent a broad range in rainfall, soil type, management strategies, and total soil P (45.2-1228.0 μg P/g soil), yet we found some unexpected and at times quite similar changes in soil P in all sites. In the Brazilian sites, where rainfall is relatively low and pasture management is more intense than in the Costa Rican sites, significant losses in total soil P and soil organic carbon (SOC) were seen with pasture age on already P-deficient Oxisol and Entisol soils. However, P losses were from inorganic soil P fractions, while organic forms of soil P remained constant or increased with pasture age, despite the declines in SOC. In Costa Rica, SOC remained constant across the Oxisol sites and increased from forest to pasture on the Mollisols, while soil organic P increased with pasture age in both sequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)LBA 34-1-LBA 34-9
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Issue number20
StatePublished - 2002


  • Land use change
  • Pastures
  • Phosphorus
  • Soils
  • Tropics


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