Land-use effects on the distribution of soil organic carbon within particle-size fractions of volcanic soils in the Transmexican Volcanic Belt (Mexico)


F. García-Oliva. E-mail:


The aim of this study was to determine the effect of land-use and forest cover depletion on the distribution of soil organic carbon (SOC) within particle-size fractions in a volcanic soil. Emphasis was given to the thermal properties of soils. Six representative sites in Mexico were selected in an area dominated by Andosols: a grassland site, four forested sites with different levels of degradation and an agricultural site. Soils were fractionated using ultrasonic energy until complete dispersion was achieved. The particle-size fractions were coarse sand, fine sand, silt, clay and particulate organic matter from the coarse sand sized fraction (POM-CS) and fine sand (POM-FS). Soil organic carbon decreased by 70% after forest conversion to cropland and long-term cultivation; forest cover loss resulted in a decrease in SOC of up to 60%. The grassland soil contained 45% more SOC than the cropland one. Soil organic carbon was mainly associated with the silt-size fraction; the most sensitive fractions to land-use change and forest cover depletion were POM followed by SOC associated with the silt and clay-sized fractions. Particulate organic matter can be used as an early indicator of SOC loss. The C lost from the clay and silt-sized fractions was thermally labile; therefore, the SOC stored in the more degraded forest soils was more recalcitrant (thermally resistant). Only the transformation of forest to agricultural land produced a similar loss of thermally stable C associated with the silt-sized fraction.