Forest conversion to smallholder plantations: The impacts on soil greenhouse gas emissions and termite diversity in Jambi, Sumatra

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Ongoing conversion of forests in Sumatra to agricultural lands might affect the biodiversity of soil fauna, such as termites, and emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2). To assess the impact of such forest conversions, this study was conducted in Jambi, Sumatra in an undisturbed forest (FR), a disturbed forest (DF), a one year old rubber plantation (RB1), a twenty year old rubber plantation (RB20) and an oil palm plantation (OP). The plantations belonged to smallholders and were not usually fertilized. The effect of fertilizer was assessed by applying N fertilizer and taking a series of intensive measurements. The N2O, CH4 and CO2 fluxes were measured using static chamber methods and termite species richness was assessed using a standard semi quantitative transect method. Forest conversion to smallholder plantations did not significantly affect the N2O, CH4 and CO2 fluxes, but the diversity and relative abundance of termites was decreased. this implies that the ecosystem services regulated by termites might decline. The application of N fertilizer at the conventional rate (141 kg N ha-1 y-1), with an emission factor of 3.1 % in the oil palm plantation, increased N2O emissions to twice as high as that in the undisturbed forest. The annual N2O and CH4 fluxes from termites amounted to 0.14, 0.21, 0.88, 2.47 and - 0.56 kg ha-1 y-1 N2O-N and 0.85, 1.65, 3.80, 0.97 and 2.30 kg ha-1 y-1 CH4-C in the FR, DF, RB1, RB20 and OP, respectively. Further research is needed to understand the interannual variability of the N2O, CH4 and CO2 fluxes from soils and termites. Understanding the key drivers and underlying processes which regulate them would help to control the biodiversity loss and the change of N2O, CH4 and CO2 fluxes from soils and termites.

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