Soil management systems can have great effect on soil chemical, physical and biological properties. Conversion of forest to grassland and cropland can alter C and N dynamics. The objective of this study was to evaluate the changes in aggregate-associated and labile soil organic C and N fractions after conversion of a natural forest to grassland and cropland in northern Turkey. This experiment was conducted on plots subject to three different adjacent land uses (forest, grassland and cropland). Soil samples were taken from 0–5, 5–15 and 15–30 cm depths from each land use. Some soil physical (soil texture, bulk density), chemical (soil pH, soil organic matter, lime content, total organic C and N, inorganic N, free and protected organic C) and biological (microbial biomass C and N, mineralizable C and N) properties were measured. The highest and lowest bulk densities were observed in grassland (1.41 g cm−3) and cropland (1.14 g cm−3), respectively. Microbial biomass C and total organic C in forest were almost twice greater than grassland and four-times greater than cropland. Cultivation of forest reduced total organic N, mineralizable N and microbial biomass N by half. The great portion of organic C was stored in macroaggregates (>250 µm) in all the three land uses. Free organic C comprised smaller portion of soil organic C in all the three land uses. Thus, this study indicated that long-term conversion of forest to grassland and cropland significantly decreased microbial biomass C, mineralizable C and physically protected organic C and the decreases were the greatest in cropland. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.