Nagy R. Chelsea

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R. Chelsea

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  • Article
    Structure and composition of altered riparian forests in an agricultural Amazonian landscape
    (Ecological Society of America, 2015-09) Nagy, R. Chelsea ; Porder, Stephen ; Neill, Christopher ; Brando, Paulo ; Quintino, Raimundo Mota ; do Nascimento, Sebastiao Aviz
    Deforestation and fragmentation influence the microclimate, vegetation structure, and composition of remaining patches of tropical forest. In the southern Amazon, at the frontier of cropland expansion, forests are converted and fragmented in a pattern that leaves standing riparian forests whose dimensions are mandated by the Brazilian National Forest Code. These altered riparian forests share many characteristics of well-studied upland forest fragments, but differ because they remain connected to larger areas of forest downstream, and because they may experience wetter soil conditions because reduction of forest cover in the surrounding watershed raises groundwater levels and increases stream runoff. We compared forest regeneration, structure, composition, and diversity in four areas of intact riparian forest and four areas each of narrow, medium, and wide altered riparian forests that have been surrounded by agriculture since the early 1980s. We found that seedling abundance was reduced by as much as 64% and sapling abundance was reduced by as much as 67% in altered compared to intact riparian forests. The most pronounced differences between altered and intact forest occurred near forest edges and within the narrowest sections of altered riparian forests. Woody plant species composition differed and diversity was reduced in altered forests compared to intact riparian forests. However, despite being fragmented for several decades, large woody plant biomass and carbon storage, the number of live or dead large woody plants, mortality rates, and the size distribution of woody plants did not differ significantly between altered and intact riparian forests. Thus, even in these relatively narrow forests with high edge : area ratios, we saw no evidence of the increases in mortality and declines in biomass that have been found in other tropical forest fragment studies. However, because of the changes in both species community and reduced regeneration, it is unclear how long this relative lack of change will be sustained. Additionally, Brazil recently passed a law in their National Forest Code allowing narrower riparian buffers than those studied here in restored areas, which could affect their long-term sustainability.
  • Article
    Soil carbon dynamics in soybean cropland and forests in Mato Grosso, Brazil
    (John Wiley & Sons, 2018-01-05) Nagy, R. Chelsea ; Porder, Stephen ; Brando, Paulo ; Davidson, Eric A. ; Figueira, Adelaine Michela e Silva ; Neill, Christopher ; Riskin, Shelby H. ; Trumbore, Susan E.
    Climate and land use models predict that tropical deforestation and conversion to cropland will produce a large flux of soil carbon (C) to the atmosphere from accelerated decomposition of soil organic matter (SOM). However, the C flux from the deep tropical soils on which most intensive crop agriculture is now expanding remains poorly constrained. To quantify the effect of intensive agriculture on tropical soil C, we compared C stocks, radiocarbon, and stable C isotopes to 2 m depth from forests and soybean cropland created from former pasture in Mato Grosso, Brazil. We hypothesized that soil disturbance, higher soil temperatures (+2°C), and lower OM inputs from soybeans would increase soil C turnover and deplete C stocks relative to nearby forest soils. However, we found reduced C concentrations and stocks only in surface soils (0–10 cm) of soybean cropland compared with forests, and these differences could be explained by soil mixing during plowing. The amount and Δ14C of respired CO2 to 50 cm depth were significantly lower from soybean soils, yet CO2 production at 2 m deep was low in both forest and soybean soils. Mean surface soil δ13C decreased by 0.5‰ between 2009 and 2013 in soybean cropland, suggesting low OM inputs from soybeans. Together these findings suggest the following: (1) soil C is relatively resistant to changes in land use and (2) conversion to cropland caused a small, measurable reduction in the fast-cycling C pool through reduced OM inputs, mobilization of older C from soil mixing, and/or destabilization of SOM in surface soils.