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The carbon isotope record in soils along a forest-cerrado ecosystem transect: implications for vegetation changes in the Rondonia state, southwestern Brazilian Amazon region

Pessenda, L. C.R., Gomes, B. M., Aravena, R., Ribeiro, A. S., Boulet, R., Gouveia, S. E.M.
TheHolocene 1998 v.8 no.5 pp. 599-603
C3 plants, C4 plants, Holocene epoch, basins, carbon, cerrado, charcoal, climate, ecosystems, ecotones, plant communities, radionuclides, savannas, soil depth, soil organic matter, stable isotopes, tropical forests, Amazonia, Brazil
This paper presents carbon isotope data on soil organic matter (SOM) collected along an ecosystem transect that includes a wooded savannah (cerrado), a tropical semideciduous forest (cerradão), a forest tran sition type and a tropical forest. The study area is located in the Rondonia state, southwestern Brazilian Amazon region. ¹⁴C data of total soil organic matter and charcoal indicate that the organic matter in these soils is at least Holocene in age. The forest and forest transition sites are characterized by δ¹³C soil depth profiles gener ated typically by C₃ plants, indicating no major changes in plant communities have occurred in this region during the time period represented by the isotope data. In contrast, the cerrado and cerradão have experienced significant vegetation changes during the Holocene. The d¹³C data (-30‰ to -27‰) obtained in the deepest part of the profile at the cerradão site show the expansion of the C₃ forest vegetation into this region during early Holocene. A vegetation change consisting of increased C₄ plant influence is reflected in the ¹³C-enriched ¹³C record shows a clear expansion of C₃ vegetation, particularly at the cerradão site. The regression/expansion of the forest and savannah vegetation documented at the cerradão and cerrado sites is probably related to changes from a humid to a drier climate and a return to more humid conditions and is in agreement with palaeoclimatic information reported for Brazil and the Bolivian Altiplano. This study suggests that large areas in the Amazon basin have been affected by vegetation changes during the Holocene and that soil organic matter in the transition areas between savannah and forest ecotones contains a valuable palaeorecord of vegetation changes in the Ama zon region.