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Soil carbon stock changes due to edge effects in central Amazon forest fragments

Barros, Henrique S., Fearnside, Philip M.
Forest ecology and management 2016 v.379 pp. 30-36
carbon, carbon sinks, climate change, deforestation, edge effects, forest management, forests, georeferencing, habitat fragmentation, logging, microclimate, models, necromass, organic matter, phytomass, soil, tree mortality, vegetation structure, Amazonia, Brazil
Amazon forest stocks large quantities of carbon both in plant biomass and in soil. Deforestation has accelerated the process of forest fragmentation in the Brazilian Amazon, resulting in changes in carbon stocks in both biomass and soil. Logging, including that under legal forest management, can create edge-like conditions inside the forest. We investigated the relationship between changes in carbon stocks in the soil and the distance to the nearest edge in forest remnants after about 30years of isolation. We assessed the effect of edges using geographically weighted regression (GWR), which considers the non-stationary character of soil carbon stocks and assigns relative weights to the observations according to the distance between them. Data from 265 georeferenced plots distributed over 28ha of forest fragments in the Manaus region were included in these analyses. Soil-carbon stocks were estimated for areas before (1984–1986) and after (2012–2013) isolation of the fragments. The GWR model indicated an apparent relationship between change in carbon stocks and distance from the edge (R2=0.79). The largest changes occurred in plots located closest to the edges. In 202 plots ⩽100m from an edge, soil-carbon stock increased significantly (p=0.01) by a mean of 1.34Mgha−1 over the ∼30-year period. Such changes in soil carbon stocks appear to be associated with higher rates of tree mortality caused by microclimatic changes in these areas. Increased necromass inputs combined with changes in composition and structure of vegetation may result in increased rates of decomposition of organic matter, transferring carbon to the soil compartment and increasing soil carbon stocks. Considering both “hard” edges adjacent to deforestation and “soft” edges in logging areas, the soil-carbon increase we measured implies an absorption of 6×106MgC in Brazilian Amazonia. In hard edges maintained for ∼30years, the soil-carbon increase offsets 8.3% of the carbon losses from “biomass collapse” in the first 100m from a clearing. Soil carbon did not change significantly in 63 forest-interior plots, suggesting that global climate change has not yet had a detectible effect on this forest carbon compartment.