Role of deforestation and hillslope position on soil quality attributes of loess-derived soils in Golestan province, Iran

Khormali, F and Ajami, M and Aoyubi, S and Srinivasa Rao, Ch and Wani, S P (2009) Role of deforestation and hillslope position on soil quality attributes of loess-derived soils in Golestan province, Iran. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 134 (3-4). pp. 178-189. ISSN 0167-8809

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Conversion of natural land resources into croplands, which is triggered by the rapid population growth, causes serious soil degradation. A loess hillslope located in eastern Golestan province of Iran was selected to study the role of deforestation and slope position on soil quality attributes. Surface (0–30 cm) and subsurface (30–60 cm) soil samples were taken from five slope positions (summit, SU, shoulder, SH, backslope, BS, footslope, FS and toeslope, TS) of forest (FO) and adjacent deforested cultivated land (DEF) in a factorial trial with completely randomized design. Ten pedons were also investigated and undisturbed soil samples were taken from different horizons for micromorphological studies. The texture of the original loess is silt loam. The soil textural class varies from silty clay loam in FO to silt loam in DEF, mainly due to the loss of finer particles as a result of soil erosion followed by deforestation and long-term cultivation. Mean weight diameter (MWD) of aggregates decreased following deforestation (0.88 mm compared to 1.49 mm in FO), as a result of considerable losses of organic carbon (OC) and breakdown of aggregates. Bulk density (BD) increased and soil infiltration rate decreased by about 50% in DEF. Reduction of annual organic matter input to soil as a result of deforestation and also rapid oxidation of organic matter in DEF were responsible for a significant decrease (>70%) in OC and total nitrogen (TN). Soil microbial respiration (SMR) also decreased significantly, following deforestation. Carbon, and N contents and population of fungi were significantly higher in all hillslope positions of the FO than the DEF. Changes in soil quality attributes were not significant in different slope positions of FO, which might be related to the stability of forest landscape. Effect of different slope positions on soil quality attributes was more pronounced in the DEF. The SH and BS were found as the most susceptible positions to erosion in DEF. Soils of the FO were mainly classified as Alfisols and Mollisols with evidences for clay illuviation compared to the weakly developed Inceptisols formed in the DEF. Micromorphological investigations revealed that the FO soils had strong granular and crumb microstructure with a high porosity indicating the presence of high amount of organic matter. The high microbial and faunal activity was confirmed through the presence of excremental pedofeatures in the topsoil of the FO. Lower organic matter and consequently microbial activity in the topsoil of the DEF have resulted in the massive microstructure with little porosity

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Soil quality; Deforestation; Hillslope position; Soil degradation; Organic matter loss; Loess
Subjects: Others > Soil Science
Depositing User: Ms K Syamalamba
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2014 11:06
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2014 11:06
Official URL:
Acknowledgement: UNSPECIFIED
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