The conversion from forest to grassland is drastically changing soil characteristics in Amazon, leading to land degradation when it is poorly managed. Chemical and physical changes of a Typic Hapludox were evaluated as a function of the conversion (by means of fire) from forest to Brachiaria brizantha cultivation. Samples from the remaining forest were also sampled. Treatments were made to pastures eight (P8), thirteen (P13) and fifteen (P15) years after conversion, and to land under continuous grazing, and to a remaining forest area (control). The forest soil was more acidic than the pasture soils. Soil density and Ca+2 increased after the conversion, regardless of the period of grazing. Carbon stocks varied from 31·2 t ha−1 in the forest soil to 37·4 (P8), 33·5 (P13) and 30·7 t ha−1 (P15). Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.