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      Tropical forest restoration: Fast resilience of plant biomass contrasts with slow recovery of stable soil C stocks

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          Abstract

          1. Due to intensifying human disturbance, over half of the world's tropical forests are reforested or afforested secondary forests or plantations. Understanding the resilience of carbon (C) stocks in these forests, and estimating the extent to which they can provide equivalent carbon (C) sequestration and stabilization to the old growth forest they replace, is critical for the global C balance. 2. In this study, we combined estimates of biomass C stocks with a detailed assessment of soil C pools in bare land, Eucalyptus plantation, secondary forest and natural old-growth forest after over 50 years of forest restoration in a degraded tropical region of South China. We used isotope studies, density fractionation and physical fractionation to determine the age and stability of soil C pools at different soil depths. 3. After 52 years, the secondary forests had equivalent biomass C stocks to natural forest, whereas soil C stocks were still much higher in natural forest (97.42 t/ha) than in secondary forest (58.75 t/ha) or Eucalyptus plantation (38.99 t/ha) and lowest in bare land (19.9 t/ha). Analysis of δ13C values revealed that most of the C in the soil surface horizons in the secondary forest was new C, with a limited increase of more recalcitrant old C, and limited accumulation of C in deeper soil horizons. However, occlusion of C in microaggregates in the surface soil layer was similar across forested sites, which suggests that there is great potential for additional soil C sequestration and stabilization in the secondary forest and Eucalyptus plantation. 4. Collectively, our results demonstrate that reforestation on degraded tropical land can restore biomass C and surface soil C stocks within a few decades, but much longer recovery times are needed to restore recalcitrant C pools and C stocks at depth. Repeated harvesting and disturbance in rotation plantations had a substantial negative impact on the recovery of soil C stocks. We suggest that current calculations of soil C in secondary tropical forests (e.g. IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories) could overestimate soil C sequestration and stabilization levels in secondary forests and plantations.

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          Most cited references 31

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          CO2 emissions from forest loss

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            Increasing carbon storage in intact African tropical forests.

            The response of terrestrial vegetation to a globally changing environment is central to predictions of future levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The role of tropical forests is critical because they are carbon-dense and highly productive. Inventory plots across Amazonia show that old-growth forests have increased in carbon storage over recent decades, but the response of one-third of the world's tropical forests in Africa is largely unknown owing to an absence of spatially extensive observation networks. Here we report data from a ten-country network of long-term monitoring plots in African tropical forests. We find that across 79 plots (163 ha) above-ground carbon storage in live trees increased by 0.63 Mg C ha(-1) yr(-1) between 1968 and 2007 (95% confidence interval (CI), 0.22-0.94; mean interval, 1987-96). Extrapolation to unmeasured forest components (live roots, small trees, necromass) and scaling to the continent implies a total increase in carbon storage in African tropical forest trees of 0.34 Pg C yr(-1) (CI, 0.15-0.43). These reported changes in carbon storage are similar to those reported for Amazonian forests per unit area, providing evidence that increasing carbon storage in old-growth forests is a pan-tropical phenomenon. Indeed, combining all standardized inventory data from this study and from tropical America and Asia together yields a comparable figure of 0.49 Mg C ha(-1) yr(-1) (n = 156; 562 ha; CI, 0.29-0.66; mean interval, 1987-97). This indicates a carbon sink of 1.3 Pg C yr(-1) (CI, 0.8-1.6) across all tropical forests during recent decades. Taxon-specific analyses of African inventory and other data suggest that widespread changes in resource availability, such as increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, may be the cause of the increase in carbon stocks, as some theory and models predict.
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              Root biomass allocation in the world's upland forests

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Functional Ecology
                Funct Ecol
                Wiley
                02698463
                December 2017
                December 2017
                July 31 2017
                : 31
                : 12
                : 2344-2355
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Key Laboratory of Vegetation Restoration and Management of Degraded Ecosystems; South China Botanical Garden; Chinese Academy of Sciences; Guangzhou China
                [2 ]Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Applied Botany; South China Botanical Garden; Chinese Academy of Sciences; Guangzhou China
                [3 ]Marine Biological Laboratory; Woods Hole MA USA
                [4 ]Agro-Environmental Protection Institute; Ministry of Agriculture; Tianjin China
                [5 ]Lancaster Environment Centre; Lancaster University; Lancaster UK
                [6 ]Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute; Balboa, Ancon Panama
                [7 ]School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystems; The Open University; Milton Keynes UK
                [8 ]Maoming Xiaoliang Water and Soil Conservation Research Station; Maoming China
                [9 ]South China Agriculture University; Guangzhou China
                [10 ]Biological Science Department; Binghamton University; Binghamton NY USA
                Article
                10.1111/1365-2435.12925
                © 2017

                http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/tdm_license_1.1

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