Drivers of soil organic carbon stock during tropical forest succession

Soil organic matter contributes to productivity in terrestrial ecosystems and contains more carbon than is found in the atmosphere. Yet, there is little understanding of soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration processes during tropical forest succession, particularly after land abandonment from agriculture practices.Here, we used vegetation and environmental data from two large-scale surveys covering a total landscape area of 20,000 ha in Southeast Asia to investigate the effects of plant species diversity, functional trait diversity, phylogenetic diversity, above-ground biomass and environmental factors on SOC sequestration during forest succession.We found that functional trait diversity plays an important role in determining SOC sequestration across successional trajectories. Increases in SOC carbon storage were associated with indirect positive effects of species diversity and succession age via functional trait diversity, but phylogenetic diversity and above-ground biomass showed no significant relationship with SOC stock. Furthermore, the effects of soil properties and functional trait diversity on SOC carbon storage shift across elevation.Synthesis. Our results suggest that reforestation and restoration management practices that implement a trait-based approach by combining long-lived and short-lived species (conservative and acquisitive traits) to increase plant functional diversity could enhance SOC sequestration for climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, as well as accelerate recovery of healthy soils.

    Publication Type

    Journal articles

    Publication year



    Satdichanh M, Dossa G G O, Yan K, Tomlinson K W, Barton K E, Crow S E, Winowiecki L A, Vågen T-G, Xu J, Harrison R D


    Forest Soil, Forest Succession, Functional Trait Diversity, Plant diversity, Soil organic carbon, Swidden agriculture, Tropical forest


    Laos, China

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