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Grazing deteriorates the soil carbon stocks of Caatinga forest ecosystems in Brazil

  • Grazing by domestic ungulates can have substantial impacts on forests in arid and semi-arid regions, possibly including severe loss of carbon from the soil. Predicting net livestock impacts on soil organic carbon stocks remains challenging, however, due to the dependence on animal loads and on soil and environmental parameters. The objective of this study was to better understand grazing effects on soil organic carbon in seasonal tropical dry forests of north-eastern Brazil (Caatinga) by quantifying carbon stocks of the upper soil profile (0–5 cm depth) and greater soil depths (>5 cm depth down to bedrock) along a gradient of grazing intensity while accounting for other influencing factors such as soil texture, vegetation, landscape topography, and water availability. We analysed soil organic carbon, soil clay content, altitude above sea level, soil depth to bedrock, distance to the nearest permanent water body, species diversity of perennial plants and aboveground biomass on 45 study plots located in the vicinity of the ItaparicaGrazing by domestic ungulates can have substantial impacts on forests in arid and semi-arid regions, possibly including severe loss of carbon from the soil. Predicting net livestock impacts on soil organic carbon stocks remains challenging, however, due to the dependence on animal loads and on soil and environmental parameters. The objective of this study was to better understand grazing effects on soil organic carbon in seasonal tropical dry forests of north-eastern Brazil (Caatinga) by quantifying carbon stocks of the upper soil profile (0–5 cm depth) and greater soil depths (>5 cm depth down to bedrock) along a gradient of grazing intensity while accounting for other influencing factors such as soil texture, vegetation, landscape topography, and water availability. We analysed soil organic carbon, soil clay content, altitude above sea level, soil depth to bedrock, distance to the nearest permanent water body, species diversity of perennial plants and aboveground biomass on 45 study plots located in the vicinity of the Itaparica Reservoir, Pernambuco, Brazil. Livestock (mainly goats and cattle) are unevenly distributed in the studied ecosystem, thus grazing intensity was accounted for based on the weight of livestock droppings per square metre and classified as no or light, intermediate, or heavy grazing. The mean soil organic carbon in the area was 16.86 ± 1.28 Mg ha−1 C with approximately one-quarter found in the upper 5 cm of the soil profile (4.14 ± 0.43 Mg ha−1 C) and the remainder (12.57 ± 0.97 Mg ha−1 C) in greater soil depths (>5 cm). Heavy grazing led to significantly lower soil organic carbon stocks in the upper 5 cm, whereas no effect on soil organic carbon of the soil overall or in greater soil depths was detectable. The soil’s clay content and the altitude proved to be the most relevant factors influencing overall soil organic carbon stocks and those in greater soil depths (>5 cm). Our findings suggest that grazing causes substantial release of carbon from Brazilian dry forest soils, which should be addressed through improved grazing management via a legally compulsory rotation system. This would ultimately contribute to the conservation of a unique forest system and associated ecosystem services.show moreshow less

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Author:Katharina Schulz, Karsten Voigt, Christine Beusch, Jarcilene S. Almeida-Cortez, Ingo Kowarik, Ariane Walz, Arne Cierjacks
DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2016.02.011
ISSN:0378-1127
ISSN:1872-7042
Parent Title (English):Forest ecology and management
Publisher:Elsevier
Place of publication:Amsterdam
Document Type:Article
Language:English
Year of first Publication:2016
Year of Completion:2016
Release Date:2020/03/22
Tag:Carbon cycle; Degradation; Desertification; Livestock; Semi-arid; Soil
Volume:367
Pagenumber:9
First Page:62
Last Page:70
Funder:Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) of Germany [01LL0904A/E]; Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of Brazil (MCTi/CNPq) [490003/2012-5]; Pernambuco Research Foundation (Facepe) [APQ-0842-2,05/12]; Brazilian CNPq [PQ 307422/2012-7]
Organizational units:Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät / Institut für Erd- und Umweltwissenschaften
Peer Review:Referiert