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LBA-ECO ND-06 Land Use Effects on Soil Nutrients: A Review of Studies 1950-2001
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Revision date: September 25, 2012


This data set provides measurements of soil properties compiled from 39 studies on nutrient dynamics in natural forests and forest-derived land uses (pasture, shifting cultivation and tree plantations) conducted in Amazonia over the period of 1950-2001. The initial literature survey for the data consisted of more than 100 studies conducted during this period.

The objectives of this project were to compare soil data from major land uses across Amazonia and identify gaps in present knowledge that offer direction for future research. Five widely cited hypotheses were tested concerning the effects of land-use change on soil properties by analyzing data compiled from 39 studies in multi-factorial ANOVA models:

There is one comma-delimited ASCII file (.csv) with this data set and a list of the 39 studies used in this data set provided as a companion file in text format.

Data Citation:

Cite this data set as follows:

McGrath, D., C.K. Smith, H.L. Gholz, and F.A. Oliveira. 2012. LBA-ECO ND-06 Land Use Effects on Soil Nutrients: A Review of Studies 1950-2001. Data set. Available on-line [] from Oak Ridge National Laboratory Distributed Active Archive Center, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, U.S.A.

Implementation of the LBA Data and Publication Policy by Data Users:

The LBA Data and Publication Policy [] is in effect for a period of five (5) years from the date of archiving and should be followed by data users who have obtained LBA data sets from the ORNL DAAC. Users who download LBA data in the five years after data have been archived must contact the investigators who collected the data, per provisions 6 and 7 in the Policy.

This data set was archived in September of 2012. Users who download the data between September 2012 and August 2017 must comply with the LBA Data and Publication Policy.

Data users should use the Investigator contact information in this document to communicate with the data provider. Alternatively, the LBA Web Site [] in Brazil will have current contact information.

Data users should use the Data Set Citation and other applicable references provided in this document to acknowledge use of the data.

Table of Contents:

1. Data Set Overview:

Project: LBA (Large-Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in the Amazon)

Activity: LBA-ECO

LBA Science Component: Nutrient Dynamics

Team ID: ND-06 (Gholz / Oliveira)

The investigators were Gholz, Henry L.; Oliveira, Francisco de Assis and Smith, Charles (Ken) Kenneth. You may contact McGrath, Dr. Deborah A. (

LBA Data Set Inventory ID: ND06_LandUse_Studies

This data set provides measurements of soil properties compiled from 39 studies on nutrient dynamics in natural forests and forest-derived land uses (pasture, shifting cultivation and tree plantations) conducted in Amazonia over the period of 1950-2001. The initial literature survey for the data consisted of more than 100 studies conducted during this period.

The objectives of this project were to compare soil data from major land uses across Amazonia and identify gaps in present knowledge that offer direction for future research. Five widely cited hypotheses were tested concerning the effects of land-use change on soil properties by analyzing data compiled from 39 studies in multi-factorial ANOVA models:

2. Data Characteristics:

Data are provided in a single comma-delimited ASCII file: ND06_soil_properties_literature_survey.csv

These soil data were compiled from 39 studies conducted between 1950 and 2001 in Amazonia. The list of the 39 study references is provided as a companion file in text format.

Column HeadingUnits/format Description
1 Region  Regional abbreviations as follows: Amazonas, Brazil; Caqueta, Colombia; Anangu, Ecuador, Mabura Hill, Guyana; Rondonia, Brazil; San Carlos de Rio Negro, Venezuala; Yurimaguas, Peru
2 N_sites  Number (n) of sites per study averaged
3 Land_use   Land use: primary forest (p. for), secondary forest (s. for), pasture (pas), shifting cultivation (cul), tree plantation or agroforest (pln)
4 Age_class years Age class of land use: <= (less than or equal to) 5 years, <=10 years, <=20 years, <=30 years, or unknown (primary forest age not known)
5 Soil_order   Soil orders: Ult (US-Ultisol; FAO-Acrisols; Brazil-red-yellow Podzolics) and Ox (US-Oxisol; FAO-Ferrasols; Brazil-yellow and red-yellow Latisols)
6 Depth cm Soil depth in centimeters
7 pH_H2O   pH
8 Bd g/cm3 Soil bulk density expressed as g/cm3
9 C_total g C /kg Total carbon assayed using (a) gas chromatography after dry combustion in a C and N analyzer or (b) Walkley-Black method (low Ca soils only; Nelson and Sommers 1982) expressed as g C/kg. Soil contents of C in top 10 cm are the product of bulk density (Bd) and C_total for each observation
10 N_totalg N/kg Total nitrogen assayed using (a) gas chromatography after dry combustion in a C and N analyzer or (b) a Kjeldahl procedure (Bremmer and Mulvaney 1982) expressed as g N/kg. Soil contents of N in top 10 cm are the product of bulk density (Bd)
11 P_total mg P/kg Total phosphorus measured (a) colorimetrically or (b) using inductively coupled argon plasma (ICAP) spectroscopy after acid digestion (Olsen and Sommers 1982) expressed as mg P/kg
12 P_ext mg P/kg Extractable phosphorus (ext-Pi) measured colorimetrically or using ICAP after (a) Mehlich double-acid, (b) Bray, or (c) resin extraction (Olsen and Sommers 1982) expressed as mg P/kg
13 Ex_Ca cmol/kg Exchangeable Ca assayed using ICAP or atomic absorption spectroscopy (AA) following extraction in 1.0 M NH4OAc (pH 7) or a Mehlich I or III double-acid solution (Thomas 1982). Expressed as cmol/kg
14 ECECcmol/kg Effective cation exchange capacity - sum of base cations (extracted and assayed as described for Ex_Ca) - exchangeable A1 (extracted in 1M KCl and assayed using ICAP or AA). Expressed as cmol/kg
15 Clay% Percent clay
16 Ref_num   References of studies cited denoted by numbers below. See companion file References.csv for complete citation
Note: missing values are represented as -9999

Example data records:

Region,N_sites,Land_use,Age_class,Soil_order,Depth,pH_H2O,Bd,C_total,N_total,P_total,P_ext,Ex_Ca,ECEC,Clay, Ref_num,
"Acre, Brazil",8,p. for,,Ult,20,4.3,-9999,15.3,1.6,360,1.5,0.5,3.1,41,1,
"Acre, Brazil",8,pln,10,Ult,20,4.9,1.02,16.2,1.7,410,1.1,2,4.4,46,"1,2",
"Acre, Brazil",5,cul,5,Ult,20,5.9,1.1,10.1,0.9,-9999,8.1,1.8,3.38,-9999,3,
"Acre, Brazil",5,p. for,,Ult,20,4.7,1.1,8.1,0.8,-9999,2.8,0.81,2.22,-9999,3,
"Acre, Brazil",5,pas,20,Ult,20,5.4,1.3,10.3,1,-9999,4.6,3.07,4.95,-9999,3,
"Amazonas, Brazil",5,p. for,,Ult,10,4.1,-9999,34.6,1.9,-9999,2.3,0.1,3.3,51,4,
"Amazonas, Brazil",1,p. for,,Ox,5,3.6,-9999,61.7,3.8,-9999,-9999,-9999,-9999,70,5,
"Amazonas, Brazil",1,pas,5,Ox,5,4.7,-9999,94.1,4.1,-9999,-9999,-9999,-9999,-9999,5,
"Amazonas, Brazil",1,pas,10,Ox,5,4.5,-9999,76.4,4.8,-9999,-9999,-9999,-9999,-9999,5,
"Caqueta, Columbia",4,p. for,,Ult,20,4.1,1.02,12.2,1.1,200,2.5,0.2,4.05,19,"6,7",

Site boundaries: (All latitude and longitude given in decimal degrees)

Site (Region) Westernmost Longitude Easternmost Longitude Northernmost Latitude Southernmost Latitude Geodetic Datum
Amazon Basin (Amazon Basin)  -80 -35 5 -18 World Geodetic System, 1984 (WGS-84)

Time period:

Platform/Sensor/Parameters measured include:

3. Data Application and Derivation:

Historic soil properties data can be used to validate models and as a baseline of comparison for more recently collected data.

4. Quality Assessment:

Not applicable.

5. Data Acquisition Materials and Methods:

Data acquisition

We reviewed over 100 studies of soil and plant nutrient dynamics in native forests and forest-derived land uses conducted in the Amazon Basin over the past 4 decades. The final data set used in our analyses was comprised of 39 studies representing five major land uses (primary forest, secondary forest, pasture, annual crops, and tree plantations) across Amazonia.

To facilitate comparisons across studies, we developed specific criteria for including a study in our analysis.

  1. First, to minimize variation due to inherent differences among soil orders, only data from sites with soils identified as Ultisols or Oxisols were used. Together, Ultisols and Oxisols represent 60% to 75% of the region's soils (Sanchez et al.,1982; Moraes et al.,1995; Cerri et al., 2000). Excluded from our analysis were Amazonian forest and agricultural sites on sandy Spodosols and more eutrophic Alfisols.
  2. Second, the depth of soil sampling in each study was placed into one of three categories (0-5 cm, 0-10 cm, and 0-20 cm); studies in which sampling occurred deeper in the soil profile were not included because the sample size was so small.
  3. Third, methods of soil analysis in each study were carefully examined, and only data derived using the same, or very similar, laboratory procedures were included (the analytical procedures used are footnoted in the Appendix of McGrath, et al. 2001).

Specific soil properties examined include concentrations of total C, N, P, extractable inorganic phosphate (Pi), and exchangeable Ca, ECEC, C:N ratios, and topsoil contents of C and N (0-10-cm depth), as well as pH and bulk density (Bd). Extractable Pi refers to inorganic phosphate extracted using either a Bray, Mehlich (I or III), or resin extraction, which, to date, are the most common procedures reported in Amazonian studies (McGrath, et al. 2001). These procedures all extract relatively similar quantities of Pi, which are presumably related to the most immediately plant available soil pool (McGrath et al. 2001). Contents of total C and N in the top 10 cm of soil were estimated as the product of Bd and elemental concentrations for each observation that included these parameters. This depth was selected for estimating C and N contents because it was used in the majority of studies we reviewed.

The age of forest-derived land-use sites was also classified (5 years or less, 6-10 years, 10-20 years, and more than 20 years). We assumed that primary or old-growth forests were over 100 years old, because the age of these systems is generally not reported. We defined secondary forests as successional regrowth of native vegetation following abandonment from annual cropping, cattle ranching, or logging, and we assumed that the age reported for a secondary forest indicated the time since abandonment of agricultural activities. In our data set, all but one secondary forest originated from abandoned annual crop fields, often referred to as fallows.

"Plantations" refers to perennial crop-based agroforests, as well as stands of native or exotic timber species. When possible, we calculated means on a per study basis for each land use within the same soil order and, age and depth class to prevent a single study with multiple sites from disproportionately influencing our analysis.

Data analysis:

The data set compiled was analyzed in single-and two-stage ANOVA models with variable classes of (a) land use, (b) soil order, (c) age of land use, and (d) sampling depth, plus their interactions. After we determined that age of land use and sampling depth had the least effect on soil properties, these variable classes were dropped from our final analysis, which used a two-stage sequential ANOVA model with factors of land use, soil order, and their interaction to calculate the probability (P) values.

Our analysis assumes that studies of all forest-derived land uses were conducted on sites established after clearing primary or old-growth forest for the first time, thus enabling us to make conclusions about the effect of land-use change on soil fertility and nutrient pools. After examining significant land use by soil order interactions, we used a Tukey's studentized range test to determine which of the five land uses differed with respect to soil characteristics, as recommended by Zar (1999). This more conservative multiple-comparison procedure was chosen because it controls type I error rates on an experimental basis and accounts for unequal sample sizes (Ott 1988). Specifically, we used this test to determine if soil properties differed among (a) primary forest vs other land uses, (b) pasture vs forest, and (c) secondary forest vs other land uses.

To test the hypothesis that higher efficiencies of nutrient use occur where soil nutrient pools are smaller, we regressed an index of nutrient-use efficiency (NUE) (inverse of litterfall N, P, or Ca content) as a function of soil concentrations of total N, extractable Pi, and exchangeable Ca, when paired data were available for any of the forest and nonforest land uses. This analysis was also performed on log-transformed data. All analyses were performed using SAS (SAS Institute, Inc., Cary, NC, USA).

6. Data Access:

This data is available through the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC).

Data Archive Center:

Contact for Data Center Access Information:
Telephone: +1 (865) 241-3952

7. References:

Alegre JC, Cassel DK, Bundy DE. 1986. Effects of land clearing and subsequent management on soil physical properties. Soil Sci Soc Am J 50:1379-84.

Beck MA, Sanchez PA. 1996. Soil phosphorus movement and budget after 13 years of fertilized cultivation in the Amazon basin. Plant Soil 184:23-31.

Botschek J, Ferraz, J, Jahnel M, Skowronek A. 1996. Soil chemical properties of a toposequence under primary rain forest in the Itacoatiara vicinity (Amazonas, Brazil). Geoderma 72:119-132.

Bremner, J.M. and C.S. Mulvaney. 1982. Nitrogen-total. p. 595- 624. In A.L. Page et al. (ed.) Methods of soil analysis. Part 2. 2nd ed. Agron. Monogr. 9. ASA and SSSA, Madison, WI.

Brouwer LC. 1996. Nutrient cycling in pristine and logged tropical rain forest: a study in Guyana. Tropenbos. Guyana series 1.

Buschbacher RJ, Uhl C, Serrao EAS. 1988. Abandoned pastures in eastern Amazonia II: nutrient stocks in soil and vegetation. J Ecol 76:682-99.

Cerri CC, Bernoux M, Arrouays D, Feigl BJ, Piccolo MC. 2000. Carbon stocks in soils of the Brazilian Amazon. In: Lal R, Kimble JM, Stewart BA. CRC Press LLC. editors. Global climate change and tropical ecosystems. Boca Raton (FL): p33-50.

Desjardins T, Andreux F, Volkoff B, Cerri CC. 1994. Organic carbon and 13C contents in soils and soil size-fractions, and their changes due to deforestation and pasture installation in eastern Amazonia. Geoderma 61:103-118.

Eden MJ, Furley PA, McGregor DFM, Milliken W, Ratter JA. 1991. Effect of forest clearance and burning on soil properties in northern Roraima, Brazil. Fort Eco Manage 38:283-90.

Eden MJ, McGregor DFM, Vieira NAQ. 1990. Pasture development on cleared forest land in northern Amazonia. Geog J 156:283-96.

Feigl BJ, Melillo J, Cerri CC. 1995. Changes in the origin and quality of soil organic matter after pasture introduction in Rondonia (Brazil). Plant Soil 175:21-29.

Gehring C, Denich M, Kanashiro M, Vlek PLG. 1999. Response of secondary vegetation in eastern Amazoˆ nia to relaxed nutrient availability constraints. Biogeochemistry 45:223-241.

Holscher D, Ludwig B, Moller RF, Folster H. 1997. Dynamic of soil chemical parameters in shifting cultivation agriculture in the eastern Amazon. Agric Ecosys Environ 6:153-163.

Kainer KA, Duryea ML, Costa de Macedo N, Williams K. 1998. Brazil nut seedling establishment and autecology in extractive reserves of Acre, Brazil. Ecol Appl 8:397-410.

Kato MSA. 1998. Fire-free land preparation as an alternative to slash-and-burn agriculture in the Bragantian region, eastern Amazon: crop performance and phosphorus dynamics [dissertation]. Gottingen: Georg-August University.

Kauffman JB, Cummings DL, Ward DE, Babbit R. 1995. Fire in the Brazilian Amazon: biomass, nutrient pools, and losses in slashed primary forests. Oecologia 104:397-408.

Korning J, Thomsen K, Dalsgaard K, Nørnberg P. 1994. Characters of three Udults and their relevance to the composition and structure of virgin rain forest of Amazonian Ecuador. Geoderma 63:145-164.

Koutika LS, Bartoli F, Andreux F, Cerri CC, Burtin G, Chone T, Philippy R. 1997. Organic matter dynamics and aggregation in soils under rain forest and pastures of increasing age in the eastern Amazon Basin. Geoderma 76:87-112.

Lips JM, Duivenvoorden JF. 1996a. Fine litter input to terrestrial humus forms in Colombian Amazonia. Oecologia 108:138-150.

Lips JM, Duivenvoorden JF. 1996b. Regional patterns of well drained upland soil differentiation in the middle Caqueta basin of Colombian Amazonia. Geoderma 72:219-257.

Markewitz D, Davidson E, Moutinho P, Nepstad D. 2001. Control of cation concentrations in stream waters by surface soil processes in an Amazonian watershed. Nature 410:802-804.

McGrath D, Comerford N, Duryea M. 2000a. Litter dynamics and monthly fluctuations in soil phosphorus availability in an Amazonian agroforest. For Eco Manage 131:167-184.

McGrath D, Duryea M, Cropper WP. 2001. Phosphorus availability and fine root proliferation in Amazonian agroforests six years following native forest conversion. Agri Ecosyst Environ 83:271-284.

McGrath D, Duryea ML, Comerford NB, Cropper WP. 2000b. Nitrogen and phosphorus cycling in an Amazonian agroforest nine years following forest conversion. Ecol Appl 10:1633-1647.

Montagnini F, Buschbacher R. 1989. Nitrification rates in two undisturbed tropical rain forests and three slash-and-burn sites of the Venezuelan Amazon. Biotropica 21:9-14.

Moraes JFL, Volkoff B, Cerri CC, Bernoux M. 1996. Soil properties under Amazon forest and changes due to pasture installation in Rondonia, Brazil. Geoderma 70:63-81.

Moraes JL, Cerri CC, Melillo JM, Kicklighter D, Neill C, Skole DL, and Steudler PA. 1995. Soil carbon stocks of the Brazilian Amazon Basin. Soil Science Society of America Journal 59: 244-247.

Neill C, Melillo JM, Steudler PA, Cerri CC, de Moraes JFL, Piccolo MC, Brito M. 1997b. Soil carbon and nitrogen stocks following forest clearing for pasture in the southwestern Brazilian Amazon. Eco Applications 7:1216-1225.

Neill C, Piccolo MC, Cerri CC, Steudler PA, Melillo JM, Brito M. 1997c. Net nitrogen mineralization and net nitrification rates in soils following deforestation for pasture across the southwestern Brazilian Amazon Basin landscape. Oecologia 110: 243-252.

Nelson, D.W., and L.E. Sommer. 1982. Total carbon, organic carbon, and organic matter. p. 539-579. In A.L. Page (ed.) Methods of Soil Analysis. 2nd Ed. ASA Monogr. 9(2). Amer. Soc. Agron. Madison, WI.

Nepstad DC, Moutinho PR, Markewitz D. 2001. The recovery of biomass, nutrient stocks, and deep soil functions in secondary forests. In: McClain ME, Victoris RL, Richey JE, editors, The Biogeochemistry of the Amazon Basin. New York: Oxford University Press.

Olsen, S R. and Sommers, L.E. 1982. Phosphorus. In: Methods of Soil Analysis. Part 2: Chemical and Microbiological Properties. A.L. Page, R.H. Miller & D.R. Keeney (Eds). Madison, Wisconsin: American Society of Agronomy, 403-427.

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Piccolo MC, Neill C, Melillo JM, Cerri CC, Steudler PA. 1996. 15N natural abundance in forest and pasture soils of the Brazilian Amazon Basin. Plant Soil 182:249-258

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Sanchez PA, Villachica JH, Bandy DE. 1983. Soil fertility dynamics after clearing a tropical rainforest in Peru. Soil Sci Soc Am J 47:1171-1178.

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Smith CK, Gholz HL, de Assis Oliveira F. 1998b. Litterfall and nitrogen-use efficiency of plantations and primary forest in the eastern Brazilian Amazon. For Ecol Manage 109:209-220.

Spangenberg A, Grimm U, Sepeda da Silva JR, Folster H. 1999. Nutrient store and export rates of Eucalyptus urograndis plantations in eastern Amazonia (Jari). For Ecol Manage 80:225-34.

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Uhl C, Jordan CF. 1984. Vegetation and nutrient dynamics during the first five years of succession following forest cutting and burning in the Rio Negro region of Amazonia. Ecology 65:1476-1490.

Verchot LV, Davidson EA, Cattanio JH, Ackerman IL, Erickson HE, Keller M. 1999. Land use change and biogeochemical controls of nitrogen oxide emissions from soils in eastern Amazonia. Global Biogeochem Cycles 13:31-46.

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