• Altiplano Bolivia pampa;
  • arbuscular mycorrhiza;
  • fungi;
  • land abandoned chronosequence;
  • soil aggregate stability;
  • soil micro-organism


  1. Soil aggregate stability is an important ecosystem property which deteriorates overtime due to agricultural practices. The cessation of cultivation allows the potential recovery of soil aggregate binding agents such as soil micro-organisms and biochemical properties. Consequently, an increase in soil aggregate stability is expected. However, this outcome is difficult to predict because the response of each individual soil component and its contribution to soil stability varies.

  2. This study utilized a chronosequence of 12 ex-arable fields in the Bolivian Altiplano, representing six soil ages of abandonment after cessation of potato cultivation, to examine whether soil aggregate stability increases after abandonment and the extent to which changes in soil bacterial and fungal community composition and soil chemical properties are involved in stability recovery.

  3. Fields with the longest time since disturbance (15 and 20 years) have a greater proportion of water-stable aggregates than more recently abandoned fields (1 and 3 years) and exhibit larger differences in bacterial and fungal composition. Total N, inline image, C and organic matter also increased with time since the last intensive agricultural practice.

  4. Water-stable aggregates were strongly correlated with soil fungal community composition. Analysis of covariance is also consistent with the soil fungal community being an important mediator of the recovery of aggregate stability.

  5. Synthesis and applications. Soil aggregate stability increased by 50% over the 20 years following disturbance. This recovery was associated with shifts in soil fungal community composition, as is consistent with fungal mediation of this recovery. Land management strategies focusing on restoration of the soil fungal community may enhance soil aggregate stability, a key aspect for soil conservation, restoration, sustainability of agroecosystems and erosion prevention.