Soil phosphorus cycling across a 100-year deforestation chronosequence in the Amazon rainforest

Suwei Xu, Chunhao Gu, Jorge L.M. Rodrigues, Chongyang Li, Brendan Bohannan, Klaus Nüsslein, Andrew J. Margenot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Deforestation of tropical rainforests is a major land use change that alters terrestrial biogeochemical cycling at local to global scales. Deforestation and subsequent reforestation are likely to impact soil phosphorus (P) cycling, which in P-limited ecosystems such as the Amazon basin has implications for long-term productivity. We used a 100-year replicated observational chronosequence of primary forest conversion to pasture, as well as a 13-year-old secondary forest, to test land use change and duration effects on soil P dynamics in the Amazon basin. By combining sequential extraction and P K-edge X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) spectroscopy with soil phosphatase activity assays, we assessed pools and process rates of P cycling in surface soils (0–10 cm depth). Deforestation caused increases in total P (135–398 mg kg−1), total organic P (Po) (19–168 mg kg−1), and total inorganic P (Pi) (30–113 mg kg−1) fractions in surface soils with pasture age, with concomitant increases in Pi fractions corroborated by sequential fractionation and XANES spectroscopy. Soil non-labile Po (10–148 mg kg−1) increased disproportionately compared to labile Po (from 4–5 to 7–13 mg kg−1). Soil phosphomonoesterase and phosphodiesterase binding affinity (Km) decreased while the specificity constant (Ka) increased by 83%–159% in 39–100y pastures. Soil P pools and process rates reverted to magnitudes similar to primary forests within 13 years of pasture abandonment. However, the relatively short but representative pre-abandonment pasture duration of our secondary forest may not have entailed significant deforestation effects on soil P cycling, highlighting the need to consider both pasture duration and reforestation age in evaluations of Amazon land use legacies. Although the space-for-time substitution design can entail variation in the initial soil P pools due to atmospheric P deposition, soil properties, and/or primary forest growth, the trend of P pools and process rates with pasture age still provides valuable insights.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere17077
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • Amazon
  • chronosequence
  • deforestation
  • phosphatase
  • phosphorus
  • phosphorus fractionation
  • reforestation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • General Environmental Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Soil phosphorus cycling across a 100-year deforestation chronosequence in the Amazon rainforest'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this